Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is He Here or Not?

"Is the Lord among us or not?" Exodus 17:7b
They were just released from hundreds of years of slavery, walked across the Red Sea on dry ground while they watched the Egyptians and their chariots drowned in the waves behind them, received breakfast manna from heaven every morning and quail for dinner every night without lifting one finger. Now the Israelites were thirsty. You would think they'd get it by now. God was providing, watching out for them. But, no. They raised their fists to Moses and complained...again...saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

Is that not like us today? One day we're raising our hands to heaven in praise and the next, when life throws us a curve ball (like long, snowy, wintry days with leaky roofs) those same hands turn into fists and we complain, "Are you really there, God?" What's wrong with us? Just like Moses, I picture Jesus turning to God and asking in a Yiddish accent, "What am I to do with these people?"

Jesus (God in human form) walked this earth among us, ate with us, worked with us, performed miracles for us, took our punishment and died for us yet, we still dare to wonder if God is with us or not. Scripture is filled with God-with-us stories; real life encounters of men and women personally experiencing God.

None of us living today have seen Jesus face-to-face, but just as he promised before he left this earth, he sent us his Comforter, the Holy Spirit to live in us. He is that still small voice we think sometimes is our own, but kinder and wiser. He is still among us.

If we stop a few minutes, look over our day, our week, our month or our year we can point to our own God-with-us moments. We need to draw our faith and our strength from those moments in time. Those moments are what builds our faith so we don't drown in the waves of life. Take some time today to stop, recall your own God-with-us moments. Journal them somewhere so you can turn to them on days when you start to wonder, "Is He here or not?" Then, you'll have something that reminds you, "Yes, yes He is!"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stand the Strain

"If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Exodus 18:23

With each passing moment the "to do list" grew ever longer. The house phone was ringing, the cell phone too. The builder came knocking at the back door. FedEx was ringing at the front door. Sick children were crying out from their beds, the cat wore new wounds from a lost tomcat fight and the new gallon of milk spilled all over the kitchen floor. The drier was buzzing, the washer spinning and mama was ready to be hung out to dry.

Have you ever had such a day? Maybe you've had a month of those days and you're wondering how you're ever going to make it. Relief seems so distant, maybe even nonexistant. It's these moments we all wonder, "How'd my mother ever do this?" Or, maybe we've played the lone ranger so often, we no longer recognize our need for help. Today's society calls us to be independent, self-sufficient until we pronounce, "I can do it myself!" as though it were a badge of honor.

Then, in a weak moment, we dare to answer one of those ringing phones and we hear, "Hello, my friend. How are you today?" In that instant we have a choice to live honestly and ask for help or hide the truth and and stay the lone ranger.

Jethro, Moses' father-in-law called on him in the desert one day. At first, Jethro just sat back and watched Moses work. He quickly recognized how overwhelmed Moses was, leading the Israelites in their physical journey through the desert, caring for their spiritual journeys, relaying the words of God, and listening to everyone as they had need. After a day of this, Jethro finally spoke up, like any good father-in-law would do. He asked, Why do you do all this alone, while the rest of the people just stand around all day? This isn't good for you. It's too heavy for just you. It will only wear you out. You cannot handle all this alone. And he proceeded to give him some sound advice: delegate; train, teach and empower other godly, trustworthy men to do the easy tasks and bring only the difficult tasks to Moses. "If you do this and God so commands," said Jethro, "you will be able to stand the strain..." (Ex 18:23).

It seems easier, in the heat of the moment, to handle everything ourselves, doesn't it? But, at the end of the day, we're spent...nothing left to give our spouses, our children or even God himself. Too many of those days strung together can lead to sickness or physical and emotional collapse. Then, we're no good to anybody and who will look after you?

Whether you're a lone ranger in your business, your workplace or at home consider the story of Moses and Jethro. In times when you become overwhelmed, seek a coworker, a friend, a family member who is willing to share your load. Then, at the end of the day, you'll find some of you left over to share and everyone will go to sleep full and satisfied.

Ring, ring. "Hello, my friend. How are you today?"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Artist's Heart

"To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness."
Ecclesiastes 2:26

An artist's heart looks no different than any other heart, but how it perceives, reacts and creates is another story. It's altogether odd.

Whether he creates a picture of his experience through paint, clay, pencil, word or musical notes, he expresses what his heart feels. Everything is extraordinary to one who creates. The world holds countless creative possibilities: from the first glimpse of light outside the bedroom window, to the person standing in front of him at the grocery store, to the last kiss goodnight. An artist's heart is always listening, always perceiving, always reacting to his world.

It's like he's born with extra sensory nerve endings...every sense kicked into high gear...every emotion on high alert. He perceives the details of every moment: the slightest raise of an eyebrow, the simplest breeze through the open window, the conversation in the corner, the colors of the sky, the pattern on the butterfly wing. These experiences, unnoticed by the ordinary eye give way to the artist's creative abilities to share the extraordinary.

Yet, this highly sensitive heart can also be a detriment to the creative person. His heart can misperceive. It can be fooled to believe what isn't true. It can catapult the artist into a melancholy baby pretty quickly. So, how does the artist cope? Some don't. Others drink. Many choose seclusion. The world says, "Stop being so sensitive! Grow a thicker skin." Have you ever tried to NOT react to something that effects the core of who you are? Impossible.

For this artist, running to the One who created me is the only way to cope (along with a box of tissues and my journal). When my overly sensitive, artist's heart is overwhelmed with melancholy; when this heart is caught in a tangle of misperceptions and the tissues run out; when it is totally overwhelmed I run to God's arms for comfort and just listen. I listen for His words to pour over me...His words of worth and truth and love.

Solomon, the wisest king who ever ruled, said this, "To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness..." Ecclesiastes 2:26. I hang onto that. I create, I live, I breathe to please God and no other. For pleasing any other besides God only frustrates the heart of the artist. Nothing created will ever satisfy the artist's heart unless he knows his work has eternal purpose and the smile of the One who placed the creative spirit in him.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More Than Just a Block of Wood

"Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom." Psalm 145:3

Mr. Magorium gave Molly Mahoney a large block of wood to carry with her wherever she went. Supposedly it was a magical block of wood that held some greatness and Molly's mission was to discover that greatness. Day after day Molly carted that lifeless, heavy, wooden cube everywhere. It became a burden and a source of discouragement. She believed it was a magical block of wood because Mr. Magorium said so. But in her hands, it showed no signs of life let alone, magic.

"It is a magical block of wood that in the right hands, would reveal some greatness we can't even imagine!" Molly emphatically exclaimed to the Mutant. And with that, the once lifeless block of wood flipped over on the counter behind her.

"Say that again," the Mutant commanded wanting to see if the cube would move again. "Say that again."

"I believe it with my entire heart! It is absolutely more than just a block of wood!" Molly exclaimed. And with those words, the magic was awakened inside that block of wood and it began to swirl and dance around the toy store breathing life and hope into everything within the store.

"It's you! Molly, YOU are a block of wood. What you need to believe in is YOU," the Mutant said in amazement of all he witnessed.

"And so began the life of Molly Mahoney."

God has given us all the great gift of life, held together with flesh and bones. We are born. We live. We die. Those are the cold, bare facts of our earthly existence. If we stop there, we are no more valuable than Molly Mahoney's lifeless block of wood. But, we are more than just a block of wood; more than just flesh and bones. We contain the very breath and image of God. And what's more, God has placed unique gifts inside for each of us to unwrap and share with the world.

I'd have to agree Molly was right to say the block of wood needed to be in the right hands in order for the greatness to be revealed. We cannot reveal the greatness locked inside our hearts without the hands of God on our lives. We are only human which means the forces of the Enemy are against us from the beginning...feeding us every excuse and discouragement possible to stop us from the touch of the Master. But, the words of our mouth are powerful. When we say, "I believe with all my heart that Jesus is Lord, that he died for my sins, that he rose again and lives at the right hand of the Father," the power of heaven comes down into our lives and the Enemy no longer has control. Then, the greatness of God is revealed.

Thus, begins the life of every believer.