Thursday, April 24, 2008

Missing Beth

Recently we had some precious friends from Orlando come to visit us and see Washington, D.C. It was a treat for me as playing tourist in our nation's capitol is one of my favorite things to do. We took off for the week visiting the museums, the monuments, the Capitol and the White House. We were having a grand old time playing in the city as she showed off for us all decked out in her annual pink necklace of cherry blossoms.

On Saturday afternoon, one of our friends had to head back to Orlando, so after we put her on the train, we went to see the Washington monument. The view was spectacular walking in a short circle to see the Lincoln Memorial, the reflecting pool, the White House and the Capitol. We sat and marveled at how good God had been to give us such a wonderful week.
The next Tuesday morning, I sat in bible study listening to everyone sharing their prayer requests. One lady mentioned that she had a special praise. On Saturday, she had taken visiting family down to the district to see the sites. When they stopped in front of the Capitol, who did they see but Beth Moore filming on the steps of the Capitol. My friend continued telling of how they got to meet Beth, how she was just as precious in person as she is on her DVDs and what a special day it was for their family.

While this story was being shared, I sat with my mouth hanging open. It has been my privilege to study several of Beth Moore's DVD series. Each time, Beth has a way of presenting the material so that you feel you are sharing God's word over a cup of coffee with her. Consequently, I kind of consider Beth on my list of BFF's, even though we have never met. So, what was up with me standing and gazing from the Washington Monument at the Capitol while Beth is standing on the steps of the Capitol and never knowing she was there? After all the warm mugs we have shared together over God's word, shouldn't I have realized she was in town? Unbelievable.

Hopefully, you are grinning about how silly I am to get worked up over missing someone who has never even met me. I know I will get to hug Beth's neck in heaven and thank her for giving of herself to write and teach Bible studies that have drawn me closer to the Father. Meeting Beth on this side of eternity would be a treat, but it is not in any way essential. There is, however, a meeting I can not miss - my meeting with Jesus.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits-
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who ransoms your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103: 2-5

I must have my sins forgiven. I need my diseases (selfishness, a critical spirit, being judgemental and on and on) healed. I want a life that is ransomed from the pit. And oh how sweet when He satisfies my desires with good things and renews my youth (a benefit which looks better every year!) like the eagle's.

Recently, a precious friend shared with us how God has changed her focus in the intense struggle she has been walking through. Some days, she shared with us, all she can say is "At least I am not going to hell." Though initially this may seem like a very morbid statement, its truth is exactly how Jesus instructed His disciples. When they had returned from missions He had sent them out on, they were rejoicing over all they had accomplished through His power. Look at Jesus' words to them:

"I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Luke 10:19-20

This is where my heart wants to rest today. "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven." I may have missed Beth, but praise God . . . . . . I did not miss Jesus.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Puffed Up

Have you ever seen the defense mechanisms of a puffer fish at work? When perceiving danger, the puffer fish has the ability to fill its very elastic stomach up with large volumes of water (or air) and bloat itself to several times larger than its normal size. Many species of puffer fish also have quills or spines which become more pronounced upon inflation. Their sudden bloating and resulting exposed spines frequently drive away potential predators in fear.

Lately, I have been noticing behavior in myself akin to a puffer fish. Maybe I am noticing because my gracious Father has been turning my eyes that way. When something does not go my way or I feel mistreated, especially with family members, I begin sucking air in and blowing up my body. Out come quills all over me ready to strike at any perceived danger or offense. As the air continues to bloat my little puffer fish-like body, so my attitude grows larger and larger, more and more distasteful.

Please understand the perceived danger in my life does not involve physical violence or vulgar, abusive words. My perceived dangers look a little more like this:

“Well, if he expects me to ___________ (fill in the blank with any number of ideas), he’s got another think coming!”
“So help me, if I have to tell that child one more time to _________”
“Does he ever think about how this might impact me ?!?!?”

Slowly but surely, I mentally become the “offended” rehearsing over in my mind the “offense.” Needless to say, my countenance, my thoughts and my attitude quickly sour as this thinking inflates inside of me. Depending upon my mood at the time, I can choose to use my drama queen tendencies to either cover the bloating inside of me or exaggerate it to be sure my offender is aware of their crime. Pretty picture, huh?

Two competing ideas seem to arise while I am bloated. My own self, along with the whispers of voices of evil which desire only my self destruction, instruct me to balance the scales of injustice by dealing with the offense. Self and evil advise me to dwell on the offense by turning it over and over in my mind. They encourage me to devise a plan of action for educating the offender of his or her mistake. All of these mental gyrations allow the nasty air to swirl around inside and keep me bloated.

The Father has been showing me I have some other options in these situations. He gently reminds me, despite my protests, that I do have choices in these matters. His ideas are starkly different from those of self and evil.

Let it go.
Consider that your “offender” may have meant no offense.
Let it go.
Is this really worth your mental energy?
Let it go.
Will you even remember this one week from now?
Let it go.

The “Let it go” mindset is glaringly unpopular in our world today. “Stand up for your self,” “You have to make them understand,” “You can not just let them walk on you.” These are much more popular concepts. For me, these ideas are not particularly helpful. They allow me to justify the very thoughts and attitudes which keep me bloated. I hate being bloated.

Making the choice to let go gives me much more power and control. These are two of my strongest cravings which this time can work for my good. When I let go, I can feel the air beginning to leave. As the sour air seeps out, I slowly deflate. This deflation relieves my bloating. My mind comes back under control. Peace floods in.

I know many of you are probably climbing on your soapboxes of concern to remind me that I need to have a voice, my family needs to understand how their actions impact me and discipline and boundaries are essential in the home. Truly, I hear you. But here are my personal truths. I have wasted too much energy in my own life being puffed up about things that did not really matter anyway. Too much of my time and thoughts have gone towards anger at the very people I actually love more than any others on this earth, often when they had do clue what they had done. These are personal truths that propel me to change.

I can feel my Father smile and whisper His approval at my decision to choose to let it go. He has watched as I built my own chains of bondage through the years around my bloated self. This is not His desire for me. He is a lover of freedom.
Today I want to remember the little puffer fish. I want to understand how easily my mind blows up with sour air. I want to stay deflated. I want to choose to let it go.

"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."
1 Corinthians 8:1b (NIV)