The Pick of the Century

Have you ever watched the show American Pickers? My husband and I love that show! We just can’t wait to see what Mike and Frank and Danielle will do next! Not to mention the crazy things they buy. To us most of the time, it looks like junk. Who would want a rusty broken grill off of a 70 year old car? Yet, for some reason these loveable TV personalities just find the sparkle in every body else’s junk.

Do you have junk? I’m not talking about the scrap metal, bags of trash, broken stuff kind of junk. The kind of junk I’m referring to is the junk you try to hide from every one. You know the what I mean, the anger issue, the secret addiction, or the mounting gambling debt? Do you have a vice that just trips you up all the time? You have tried and tried to kick that dang habit but you just keep coming up short of your goal? Ya me too…

This type of “junk” can seem far from being a treasure. I mean when you watch Frank, that big teddy bear, pick up an old ceramic sign that is chipped,you can see how someone could sand and paint that sign and make it new again. But when you look in the mirror at the aged face that is angry and the wrinkles just prove you’ve been scowling all day, it’s hard to see the value.

Here is where you’re wrong.

God never said “come to me when you’re all cleaned up and I will give you a call”. He said “Come to me when you are weary and carrying a heavy load, and I will give you REST!”. He said “I want you to know my ways are not heavy and what I ask you to carry is light, so learn about my ways.”

God is not interested in your designer life, your restored personality and your ten steps to freedom graduation certificate. He wants your salvaged, no good, ready for the trash heap life. He desires your edgy, angry, can’t seem to keep my cool personality. And most of all He wants your hands, your heart, your tears, and your ankles that are shackled fast to the past. He wants all of you. The good the bad and the ugly.

God does not look at you and see something broken that isn’t worth anything. How do you think Mike and Frank got their keen eye for perfect junk? They are demonstrating a part of the Father’s heart. God looks over the junk-yard of mankind, and sees the perfect piece of art to add to His masterpiece. He sees you! He loves your wrinkles, and your quirks. He sees the spit-fire attitude and the no-backing-down mentality and say “I love it! I can use that!”. He sees the weakness in your will, which leads you to addiction and says “How better to aid you in leaning on my arms! I’ll use it!”

When you see broken, He sees perfection. He never looks at a broken vase as wasted, He only sees what He will create with the shards that remain, and when God creates things He calls them good.

Don’t look at your flaws, your shortcomings, or addictions, or vices and say “I’m not good enough, Once I stop ‘_____________ing’ I can go back to God”. God wants you, broken pieces and all. He wants the chance to create the most beautiful artwork you’ve ever seen, out of a life of broken things you never imagined possible. God loves to take ashes from a scrap heap, and make beauty. He loves you. You are His pick of the century!

 

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An anorexic sparrow?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?…(Matt 6:26)

Have you ever seen an anorexic sparrow? Have you ever seen a bird that was starving to death? This is ridiculous! It’s so ridiculous it’s laughable. Birds don’t starve to death, and they aren’t anorexic. God takes such good care of the sparrows that you never see a sparrow that looks unhealthy or too thin. He feeds them, and He has promised to feed you.

We encounter need in our life on a daily basis. Need pops up in many forms, more so than just food to eat, or clothes to wear, however, these are the two things the Bible points out in the passage from Matthew. Jesus encourages us that not only does God feed the sparrows but He clothes the lilies, and that He knows your needs. Every need you have has come before the Author of life and He has made a way to provide for you.

He asks us one simple thing. Can you seek God’s kingdom, and His righteousness first, before you even think of seeking the provision for your need?

This is a difficult pill to swallow. Jesus is saying “Think about Me first. Think about making My reign in your heart a priority. Think about Advancing my love to others and declaring My Name first. Think about how I paid for your righteousness by earning righteousness and dying your death. Think about Me first. Think about loving My people.”

I can already hear it. You’re thinking “What?! God wants me to put Him first, and neglect my need?” And no! He does not want you to neglect your need at all. He understand the needs you have and that they are very important to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re 36 and you have bill collectors calling, or if you are 12 and your brother broke your IPod. God knows the need and He understands how important it is to you personally. (Because you might not esteem the broken ipod as being as desperate a situation as your mounting debt is. But to that 12 year old it is desperately urgent and God sees that!)

God has no intention of leaving you hanging, or making you think of Him and forget your need. God is so faithful that He gives you the solution to the problem before the problem even arises. He promises, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and All His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you!”

You are not neglecting your problem by focusing on God and His kingdom. In fact, the very answer you need to get your problem solved is to put it in the waiting hands of the Father of the upside down kingdom. He says forget about yourself and seek me and you’ll get what you need. You see there is a secret no one tells you about the sparrow, and the lily. Two sparrows flying around the sky are not thinking of themselves. They are busily preparing a nest and taking care of their young, the next generation. And a lily growing in a field is not preserving itself it is busy making plenty of food which is stored in its tuberous root for the generation to rise up the next spring and produce a beautiful flower.

You were not made to think only of yourself and self-preservation. You were made to pay it forward. You were created to love, and as you think of God’s kingdom, His righteousness, He takes care of you so you can stay busy taking care of the next generation! Have you ever seen an anorexic sparrow? Never! Because they live to pass on life, and our heavenly Father provides what they need to pass on life.

Faith, the kind of faith that trusts God and seeks Him first, is the very substance that God uses to create the thing you are confidently expecting of Him. That trust in Him is the evidence that He is working and you will one day soon see the manifestation of what you need.

You have never seen an anorexic sparrow because God is faithful, even when you don’t believe in Him.

Marriage is hard work?

 

A new “challenge” is sweeping the time lines of Facebook users everywhere. The “Love your Spouse” challenge has people posting pictures of them and their spouse and adding gushy, love inspired quotes to each picture to celebrate their marriage and the love they have for their spouse. Not too far into the challenge and bloggers went wild, posting blogs about their dissent from social peer pressuring, and their disagreement with the challenge. This isn’t new, it happens daily I’m sure. But one blog shared by a friend of mine really got my attention. It was well written and the person writing it made very good points.

A lot of times marriage doesn’t look like the lovey, dovey pictures we post on our Facebook pages. We never post a picture of the argument we had the night before. We seldom mention the way we are so busy that we meet up at bedtime for a quick “board meeting” of household check lists, before we collapse from exhaustion. A lot of times marriage is far from resembling the smiling pictures we share. Some people obviously feel that we share those gushy pictures in order to “one-up” our Facebook friends, leaving them comparing our “5%” to their “behind the scenes”. This may be true for some, and some people may feel jealous over your picture but here is my thought about the matter.

My husband and I disagree. In fact, sometimes we outright fight. I remember a particular fight that left a chair smashed, a lamp broken, and spaghetti sauce on the wall. (Thank God that was years ago and we usually don’t get that violent anymore….we have kids watching.)  We went through periods of separation. We spent a few years with him working 80-100 hours a week, through the weekends, and just plain tired. We lived through the stress of sickness, and all the while he was doing college and working full time. We’ve had our share of financial problems, and just plain crappy stuff.

Some would say that keeping a marriage together and vibrant during those difficult times was hard work. That marriage itself is hard work and without the hard work your marriage just falls apart. I want to say, despite the arguments and the trials, our marriage has not been hard work. Not one day of it has been work at all.

When you love someone you do not have to work to forgive their indiscretion, or attitude. You do not have to strive to serve them as they are so busy they cannot sit and relax for a single moment of the day. You don’t to think twice about whether what you are doing will hurt them, you know already because you love them. When you actually love someone, not because they make you feel good but because you want to make them feel good, it is easy.

Love makes things easy.

Stop and think about the last time you actually did something for your spouse because you loved him or her. The only reason you did what you did was because you thought of them and thought that what you would do would put a smile on their face? How long ago was that? How often does that happen?

When love, true love, is the center of your marriage, I promise you, marriage is not hard work at all.

Christ reveals this to us in His word when He mirrors the relationship that we as Christians have with Him as being a marriage. Paul goes as far as to say that being married to another human is a direct representation of Christ and His church. And if you know the gospel then you know that Christianity isn’t about hard work, it is about deep love. When you believe in Christ you are saved. When you love Christ you do His work, and obey His commands. When you are in a marriage without love, it takes concentration, effort, and applied focus to invest in the thing between you and your spouse. You must willfully think of the other, plan times alone, willingly yield and withdraw your own opinion or voice to avoid argument. When you are in a marriage with someone you deeply love, you simply love. Love is not selfish, it is not cruel, it doesn’t seek its own way. It supports, it protects, it is humble, and it is easy.

When true love is the center of your relationship, quiet moments together are treasured, and times of distance mean a deepening, and sweetening of the love for the moment you meet again. When you’re in love, would be arguments because times of powerful dialogue that launch you into the heart of your beloved learning who they are in a meaningful way. Love makes you listen well, and throws selfishness out the window. Love makes your marriage look like the sickly, gooey, teenager-y relationship that makes grown men vomit. You’ll have arguments likes “You hang up first”, “no, you hang up first”. Love really does these things.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in marriages all over this world people are having to “work hard” at their relationship. Maybe our marriage is an anomaly, a blip on the data that just doesn’t fit or make sense. But 18 years into this crazy contract and my husband and I are still kids that can’t decide where to eat on date night because we are trying to take care of each other. He wants steak, I want burritos, and we sit saying “NO really you should get what you want, let’s have_______”.

Maybe, just maybe, we are not an anomaly, Maybe, we are the ones who have it right. Maybe, like the sweet old couple in the movie with the floating house, who went on adventures, maybe they had it right. If I’m wrong then don’t tell me, because I can’t imagine a marriage to someone where I had to force myself to think of them first. I can’t even dare to think of a time where I would be forced to hold my tongue to avoid a nuclear argument. Marriage shouldn’t be a stifling of one person for the sake of the other. Marriage should be a beautiful metamorphism of two becoming one. Maybe we have it all wrong, but if we do, don’t tell me.

I like love. I like my easy marriage. I like living like a dreamy, crush-stricken teenager.

You have a new name

 

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Did you know that Israel was not always a celebrated Father of Faith? Israel was once called Jacob. He was a twin born to Isaac and Rebekah. His older brother Esau was the first born, only minutes before Jacob was born. By birth right Esau was meant to have the blessing, and be the prosperous older brother that carried on the family name and tradition. But Esau made a deal with his brother to sell his birthright, and therefore the blessing of the firstborn. Jacob bought the farm, literally for a bowl of soup.

Jacob’s name means supplanter, or heel grabber. He was a cheater and a sneak from the beginning. He was his mother’s favorite son and together the two of them concocted a plan to cheat Esau out of being the natural leader that he was supposed to be.

Jacob later ran away from his family, and hid from his brother for years. He would only return years later after a command from God prompted him. Eventually God would wrestle with him in the form of an angel and Jacob’s name would be changed to Israel.

Being a cheat and a liar did not disqualify Jacob from everything God had for him. In fact I believe it utterly prepared him to walk in the fullness of his calling. See God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is evidenced as we see Jacob struggle with Laban, and Laban’s sons, being cheated, mistreated, and defeated. Jacob was fleeing from God and his own responsibility by running to the wilderness and living with Laban. Jacob was being proud and God was not able to help Him. But the moment that Jacob heeded God’s voice to return to his brother, God promised “I will be with you”, and God was certainly with Jacob.

Even into old age when Jacob’s sons began to carry on the fathers mistakes by selling their brother into slavery and lying to their father about it, God was with Jacob. He would later not only be reunited with His favorite son who was betrayed by his brothers, but he and his entire family would also be preserved from a devastating drought. Jacob, turned Israel, reigned through the wisdom of his son Joseph and the entire 12 tribes of Israel were saved.

If Jacob had been perfect, and able to live on his own without help from God, he would never have heeded God’s voice to return to Esau. Jacob had to recognize his own weaknesses in order to see God’s strengths. He humbled himself, realizing that he had weaknesses and flaws and needed God’s help and wisdom. He realized that he had the birthright and that his brother Esau could not reign as the elder of his family. Jacob realized that despite the fact that he had lied and cheated to obtain the blessing, it was still his and that he must honor that.

What about you? Do you sometimes feel like Jacob, having a past that haunts you and wishing you could run from it? Do other point out your failures and weaknesses and make it hard for you to see your worth?

Seeing your failures, your brokenness, or your weakness should not send you running away from God in pride trying to “do it yourself” or “better yourself”. Instead when you see your human side you should run towards Jesus! He is the one saying “When you make mistakes, when you fall down, when things are too hard or you just can’t go on, come to Me. I want to give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) “Don’t you know my yolk is easy? Don’t you know my burden is light? Hasn’t anyone told you I will give you rest?”

And just as He went with Jacob and turned him into Israel, the Father of the 12 Tribes, He will also go with you. You will prosper everywhere you go. He will be a shield surrounding you. You will be in the right place at the right time and everything you put your hand to will be fruitful. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are never going to be perfect, or do things perfectly. You simply just keep trying, and let Jesus give you rest.