Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday nights

It's Saturday night. If you're anything like me (Which, you might consider yourself lucky if you aren't) you might be finding yourself getting prepared for Sunday. Tomorrow I have the privilege and honor of joining some fellow musicians and together, we get to lead our brothers, sisters, and friends in Christ to the feet of Jesus in worship. It's not a small responsibility and it can sit heavy with me some days. Often I can feel the weight of my own personal and even spiritual inadequacies and I can question whether I should even be a used vessel of God.

Often, those visible in leadership, ie, on the stage - can seem to those sitting in the pews as being individuals that have some how gotten it together better. Somehow they have figured out how to conquer sin, resist temptation, tame bad habits, turn from poor choices, choose the right words, turn the other cheek, and on top of that ... they might even have on an outfit that matches, hair that looks in place and a smile that is plastered on to their face........ while on stage anyway. How many times have I listened to a speaker, whether at church or a conference or retreat and just based on WATCHING them, walked away defeated? Hmm... probably too many times to recall or count.

As a woman, comparing myself to another person is as second nature as breathing. It's that ever present "Sizing-up" that we fall so victim to. It's where we rate ourselves and either end of feeling "Better" or "Worse" - both of which dishonor God and ourselves.

My biggest fear when leading my friends in worship is that we as a band will somehow get in the way of their opportunity to see Jesus. I fear that we will be a distraction and that their hearts will be drawn away from the wonder of Jesus and that a moment of intimacy with Jesus will be missed. You can trust, my church family, that Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are full of short one sentence prayers petitioned to the Father ... that you might come and worship. That you might come and feel peace. That you might come and feel WHOLE. That you might come and REST. That you might come and MEET Jesus face to face, heart to heart, and in a way you have never encountered His love.

Saturday nights are also a time when I tend to evaluate my week. I still get into the trap of not wanting to start Sunday out "on the wrong foot". I still want to walk into church feeling like "I'm good with God" and all is well. I find it sad, and even embarrassing to admit - because aren't we called to evaluate our EVERY day? God desires our BEST at all times - not just when we prepare to "enter his courts". I'm personally working to not keep a ledger book during the week. You know, where you mentally jot down the wrongs you might have done during the week. Then, at some moment just do a large sweeping prayer such as, "Oh Lord, I'm sorry for the bad things I did this week. Please forgive me and help me to do better. Thank you. Amen"

Surely I am not the only one that's done that?? :)

I'm working to be intentional and listen to the spirit's nudge. When I recognize a sin in action I am trying to first, stop the sinning, and then repent immediately to the Lord. This keeps me in constant communication with the Father and it doesn't allow for the guilt to pile as perhaps that little wrong here and the little wrong there seem to accumulate and distract me. I don't have to feel that poking and prodding. I am freed to spend my thoughts and energies on the positive things in my day - blessing someone, calling someone, serving my family, and just being with God.

I'm not perfect. I'm a sinner - just like you. I have short comings and failings. I play games with God. I act like he doesn't know everything, when I know he does. I dismiss the Holy Spirit and his nudges sometimes. I get angry. I roll my eyes at my kids. I model poor behavior. I throw temper tantrums. I gossip. I lie. I disrespect my husband. And I dishonor my God with my thoughts and attitudes. (And trust me, there's plenty more)

Even after all of that - He's eager to hear me come to him.

So, it's Saturday night. Tomorrow is Sunday. I'm preparing in my usual ways. I've thought through the songs and what I might say. I've had the kids pick out their outfits tonight so that it's easier for my hubby to get them around. I'll be doing inventory in my heart - and this time not because I want to give off the false impression that "I've got it figured out". No, this time it's because I want my full capacity to serve Jesus to be used. I don't want there to be any corner, nook, cranny, or crawl space where sin can lurk.

I can't wait to see how God will be praised tomorrow!!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blessed through Obedience

Have you ever felt that nudge from the Holy Spirit? That voice that seems to whisper and echo in your mind and heart as if to say, "You know what to do, now do it." And that thing you feel you're being asked to do is something you're kind of dreading. Well, that happened to me this week.

A couple days ago a neighbor mentioned to me over the fence that she had found another small handful of rocks over her fence. The guilty party, not just once but now twice over, was Josiah (aka, JJ). She handed me the bag and expressed her concern for rocks coming over the fence. I apologized (tho I felt myself lacking sincerity) and told her I'd address the issue again. After another minute I walked away feeling irritated that she'd make such a big deal of it. "Boys are boys and boys will throw. It's not his fault we live in the city. Yes, I understand the hazard but did it really need to be a big deal??"

As I evaluated my frustrations and fumed further I realized it was mostly out of embarrassment and pride that my feelings were originating. I was embarrassed that I was being called out on the behavior of my kid. My pride had taken a hit. No longer would she think of me as the mom with great kids who shared her back fence. I'd be the Mom who couldn't control her kids who shared the back fence with her.

It wasn't long before the thought of apologizing came to mind. I knew in my heart I'd been defensive and abrupt with her. I knew in my heart, I'd been disrespectful and that my heart had not pleased God. I began to think through how I could apologize with it hurting the least. Sort of like a half "you know what" kind of apology. Again, I knew this wouldn't be the answer.

I decided to use a painting that JJ made as an apology card from JJ. He signed his name to the note that said, " I am sorry for throwing rocks over the fence.".

Secretly I was hoping I could find her in the back yard - perhaps see her working in her yard and just holler over the fence, hand her the note, apologize quickly and get it over with. I decided to work in the yard and found myself saying to the Lord, "Give me an opportunity Lord. I will be sincere and heart felt. I really am sorry for my behavior and my attitude now and I do want to please you and I do want to apologize. Send her out into the yard so I can do this." As quickly as the thought and prayer was off my "tongue/mind" it was as if I felt God saying to me, "Why should I have to send her out? You know where she lives. Go. And go NOW."

I had a choice. I knew God wanted me to go. I knew it'd be hard to swallow my pride. I knew face to face would feel different than a stretch over the fence and a quick laugh as we both moved on. I knew it would take vulnerability and honesty. I also knew the feeling and need to apologize wasn't going to fade. It'd stuck with me for several days and it had not budged.

So I grabbed the card and I grabbed a container of strawberry freezer jam and hopped in the car. I drove around the block to her house and parked. "Okay Lord... here I go."

I knocked on her door and when she opened the door I told her, "Hi, I'm your neighbor from the back yard." She eagerly said hello and asked me into her home. (Okay, surprise #1). She seemed a little puzzled at my coming but was immediately gracious and welcoming into her home. I went on to explain, "I just wanted to apologize for the conversation we had last week over the fence. I really felt like I was rude and abrupt with you and I know I was wrong. I have felt very convicted of my actions and I wanted to say that I am sorry. JJ made you a card and here is some strawberry freezer jam....".

Her face lit up and she said, "THANK you so much!" She acknowledged that the timing of the conversation wasn't good. She had rushed it as she knew she had a pot on the stove and she knew I was just grabbing something quick off the back porch. She said she'd hesitated before saying something but did it anyway. (And I'm glad she did). After a few more minutes of chatting she asked me if I'd like to join her for a glass of ice tea. (Surprise #2). I said, "YES! Let me go grab my purse out of the car." I was smiling to myself already as I walked to the car to get my purse and come back inside. My obedience was already being blessed.

She poured us ice tea in beautiful crystal glasses that almost looked similar to ice cream parfait glasses. We started to talk and we talked for at least an hour and a half! We covered topics of parenting, church, work, going back to school, moving, adapting, houses, peaches, and dogs. No kidding!! She went on to tell me how she loves to hear Carissa sing in the backyard and hear the boys playing. She said she finds Hooper to be such a regal looking dog and doesn't mind him at all. But the best thing she said the whole conversation was this. She said, "I want to thank you for being a mom that doesn't yell and scream at her kids. You are a mom that talks to them when you discipline. I can hear you and I really respect that in you." I was astonished. I thanked her and brushed it aside. But later in our chat I came back to her comment and told her how much it meant to me. I expressed to her how much her comment had touched my heart. Often as a mom I feel frazzled and I know I have resorted to anger, manipulation, bribery, or just pure yelling to communicate. And knowing that I've done that before has often left me feeling ashamed and embarrassed, knowing full well it's wrong. It's an area where I have been consciously working to do better - asking God for His help.

I left my house feeling anxious of the conversation to come. Not knowing how it would end up but knowing it was a conversation that needed to be had.

But I went.

I left her home feeling full and encouraged. Feeling blessed not only by God but by my new found friend. I left feeling validated by a veteran mom and grandma. I left feeling hopeful for what is yet to be in our friendship. She opened her home and her heart to me. We exchanged numbers and I plan to stop in and visit her again. Perhaps next time I'll take the guilty party with me. She told me she planned to put his picture (card) on the fridge.

I sense that God could use her in my life for good things. And perhaps God could use me and even a rock throwing boy, in her life. We need each other so much more than we often think.

God will always bless us when we choose to walk in obedience. It isn't always in blessings seen immediately. It isn't always presented with a bow wrapped around it and a big balloon attached. But it was for me today. Today I was given the gift of friendship.