Tag Archives: God

I am a screw up.

It is confession time.

I went to the gym this morning and then promptly came home and decided to live dangerously and totally negate my morning workout by eating a big ole spoonful (okay, two) of raw cookie dough, even though the packaging clearly states not to do it. Ooooh, living on the edge!

You should also know that I talk to other drivers when I am driving. Other drivers in other cars. Yes, I realize that they cannot hear me. (Emma is good at reminding me of that fact.)

cray cray mom

I ask them (kinda loudly) what the heck are they doing?! I tell them to pick a lane. I suggest that they get off my road. I demand that they go at least the speed limit. (Is is really too much to ask??) I am especially annoyed by the drivers who refuse to speed up on the off ramp as they are merging onto the highway. In the past, I have discussed the fun I have at the four-way stops here in my state.  I also tell other drivers that I am going to “chop” them, while making a chopping motion with my hand, which is code for “You don’t know it, but I am totally flipping you off right now.” (Thanks, Mom, for giving me that one to use. You are so busted!) And I have been known to drop a choice word or two on them occasionally.

I’m just being for real here.

I think it’s fair to say that I have an issue that needs some work.

Okay, I have a lot of issues that need some work. But hey, don’t we all??

I am not perfect. I don’t claim to have it all together. I have done things I am not proud of. I behave badly at times. And there are lots of other things I won’t confess to…here, anyway.

I am a Christian. And I screw up on a daily basis. Ask my husband and my kids.

I realize that there are people in this world who are looking for me to screw up—who are looking for professing Christians to screw up—so they can say, “See, I knew you weren’t really a Christian.”

They won’t have to look too long or too hard if that is what they are basing my Christianity upon, because in my human-ness, I am going to screw up. And if that is all Christianity is—not screwing up, being “good”, behaving a certain way so that other people can judge that I am a “good Christian”—then what is the point? It just becomes a bunch of rules. Being a Christian is not about rules; it is about the heart.

In my heart, I want to do better—I don’t want to curse at the other drivers on my the road, or my trash can after I’ve run it over because it got left at the end of my driveway. I pray each day for God’s help to be the woman He wants me to be. 

But it is out of love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for me, that I want to love more, give more and do more—for Him. I don’t want to just do good things or be a good person because some people think that is what Christianity is.

What I want more than to be a “good person,” though, is to know God more and be more like Him. It is out of that loving relationship that good works, good attitudes, will come. Not the other way around.

Love. Mercy. Grace. Relationship. Good stuff.

There is nothing I can do to be good enough for God. I can only rely on the fact that God loved me first and saved me by grace. His gift of grace. And it is His mercy alone that allows me live another day.

And boy, am I thankful, because, I am pretty sure I will continue to just stink things up—trust me, I can be a hot mess. Only Jesus is good enough, was good enough, to redeem all my mess. Nothing other than my faith in Him and His willing sacrifice for me, makes me acceptable to God.

And so, we all find ourselves in desperate need of mercy and grace.

You. Me. Everyone.

The man who was rude to you in the grocery store check out. The cheeky teenager who stole your space in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The frazzled mom who was yelling at her kid inside the Wal-Mart. The smarmy politician. The drug addicted prostitute. The kid down the street who hurt my kid. The murderer on death row.

And me. Because I am no better.

God has mercy and grace available for them, for you, and for me. And if God can withhold judgment from me and pour out kindness on me that I do not deserve, then I need to work a little harder to pour that out on others as well.

And I do have to work at it. Somehow, for some reason, it seems really hard to withhold judgment and pour out kindness while I am driving. Why is that?? But I’m working on it and praying that I can screw up less (not just in the driving department!) and love Him—and everyone else—more. I want my kids, and those on the outside looking in, to see and know that even though I am a screw up, God still loves me and gives me grace and mercy. And that same love and grace and mercy can be theirs too.

21 Yet there is one ray of hope: 22 His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.                         Lamentations 3:21-23, Living Bible

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Being real with God.

“Lord, all I’ve got today is tears.” He said, “Then give me your tears.” ~Bob Sorge, The Fire of Delayed Answers

I try very hard in my life to be real. To be transparent. And I am always drawn to others who are.

Some people might look at me and say, Oh, that Joell, she is so funny or she is a positive person…and I really am those things, most of the time. That is real, but I tend to keep the not-so-happy stuff to a minimum. To put on my happy face and press on. Nobody loves a Debbie Downer.

There are times when I feel so downcast, and I don’t want to dump that on people. I don’t want to be a whiner. And truly I don’t want to seem too needy. And so, I will hold back. There are times when it is just too painful to be completely bare, and so I save that for the quiet times when I am alone with God and pour that out to Him. He is always my soft place to fall, the lap to crawl up into, a safe place where I know He is always willing to hear me cry. He doesn’t mind if I get whiney from time to time.

Truly, I have struggled with depression in my life. I have had my ups and downs just like everyone, and though I always try to find the silver linings and figure out what God is teaching me, I have still found myself really down in the dumps at times, and sometimes for no apparent reason.

I think of David, who feared for his life and was driven to live in a cave—for years—as a fugitive, and who must have experienced the very darkest despair. I read his songs to God in the book of Psalms—the way he cried out to Him and begged God to have mercy—and I am comforted.

I have often heard it said that God’s Word is His love letter to us, and it most certainly is. It is also his letter of “Hey, I know what you are going through. I’ve been there. Read this. Hear my voice. Stick with me, because I am sticking with you. You are going to get through this.” It is His book of comfort and encouragement. It is also a demonstration of the lives of men and women who walked with God through unimaginable circumstances: Job’s suffering, Joseph being sold into slavery and his subsequent imprisonment, David’s depression and loneliness. God never left them.

He will not delay His love

Because David was in tune to God’s great love for him, David was, as Bob Sorge says in The Fire of Delayed Answers, “secure enough in himself to give honest expression to his real feelings and emotions.” Sorge speaks of his own struggle with depression, and in his emptiness, felt he had nothing but his tears to give back to God. Sorge says, “He doesn’t ask us to give Him something that we don’t have. When you feel empty give Him whatever you have within you, little as it may seem.”

Even if it is your tears. Or your anger. Or your frustration. Or your fear.

Give it to Him. He wants it all.

And what he wants more than anything is your heart and my heart. That is what He is after. He wants it whether we are feeling on top of the world or whether we are living in the cave, like David. God is always real with us. He wants us to know that we can be real with Him.

Even when we don’t understand what is happening or where we are headed or when the fire will be over, He does, and though He may delay his answers, He will never delay His love.

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I am excited to be joining in on a weekly book discussion led by Jason Stasyszen  and Sarah Salter. Please visit them to see other posts in response to The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge, at Jason’s blog—Connecting to Impact, and Sarah’s blog—Living Between the Lines. And even if you are not reading the book, please feel free to jump into the discussion!

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Willing Captive

“One of the purposes of prison is to give the prisoner great quantities of time to spend with the Lord. If we were free, we would be quite distracted with the affairs of our life. But with little else vying for our attention, the prison becomes a time when we can establish an extraordinary connection with Jesus. If you’re in prison, dear reader, don’t be so distressed over your condition that you succumb to despair. Maximize this time—the Lord is waiting to reveal Himself to you in a most singular way.” ~Bob Sorge, The Fire of Delayed Answers, Ch. 3

We are at that interesting stage in the lives of our vehicles where we say a prayer and  hold our mouths just right when we crank ‘em up. And when they do crank, or get us from point A to point B successfully, we whisper a prayer of thanks.

My dear, sweet hubby drives a 1995 Toyota that currently has roughly 260,000 miles on it…give or take a couple. It has been Old Faithful, but it does make special noises and if you hit a pot hole just right, it sounds like the whole thing might just fall into pieces right there in the middle of the road.

For a few weeks, my hubby had noticed that occasionally it would not crank up right away. It got progressively and frustratingly worse and then became an almost daily occurrence, at which time, Hubs would already be running late for work and need to take my car, which is newer, but also has its own little set of special needs.

This summer, for a period of an entire week, my Hubs needed to drive my car to work while his was being repaired. So, I ended up at home for a solid week with the kids and had lots of time on my hands. It meant no carting my daughter to her friend’s house. No running out to do some activity or dashing off to run this or that errand. It required me (a not-so-great planner) to plan things like errands and grocery runs.

captive

I like to think it was a form of captivity. It was inconvenient. I was not despairing. It was not the end of the world or some horrible trauma or some situation where I was desperately waiting on a word from God, but I was captive, nonetheless.

Can I just tell you what wonderful time I spent with the Lord that week? With nothing taking my attention—and me avoiding all household chores, of course!—I got up in the quiet of the morning and sent Hubby off to work, put on my tea kettle and gathered up my Bible and my journal and my favorite pen, and plopped myself down in my favorite chair. It was so lovely. I look back at my journal and study notes from that week and I love the sweetness of that time. The complete intentional focus. The closeness I felt to Him.

For that week of forced captivity in my home, it was Jesus and me (and teenagers who slept really late). No distractions pulling me away. It was beautiful and refreshing. And there were things He showed me that needed work—heart issues that had to do with humility and the words that I speak and meditating on His Word. Apparently, I needed a word and just didn’t know it!

It was Him reminding me, “I’m here, just waiting for you, each morning. Come visit with me and I will show you awesome things.” It was Him removing me from the dregs, as Sorge mentioned in Chapter 3 and as it is described in the book of Jeremiah; it was me being emptied from vessel to vessel.

Sorge describes in the book this process of winemaking where the dregs of the wine settle at the bottom of the vessel and then the winemaker has to pour the wine off into another vessel in order to separate it from the dregs—a necessary process if the wine is to taste good. Otherwise, the taste of the wine sitting with the dregs will change and become bitter. The same is true for us. From time to time, we must be separated from the dregs of our heart if we are to mature and avoid tasting bitter and displeasing to God.

In the past, I always aspired to having a daily quiet time, but fancied myself too busy, or not a morning person. Something else always seemed more pressing. But that week, I felt the blessing of carving out that time. Since my “week of captivity,” I have purposed each day to sit with the Lord, in my comfy chair. I have missed days, of course, because life happens. But when I don’t start my day off that way, I really miss it. I miss Him.

I think we all get stale from time to time. And we need these times of “captivity” so that the Lord can have our rapt attention. We need the periodic pouring out from vessel to vessel. We need to embrace captivity when it comes. We must allow ourselves to be held captive by Jesus, so He can create something beautiful in us.

“God is using your imprisonment to perfect the wine of your love and to prepare you for greater fruitfulness.” ~Bob Sorge, The Fire of Delayed Answers, Ch. 3

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I am excited to be joining in on a weekly book discussion led by Jason Stasyszen  and Sarah Salter. Please visit them to see other posts in response to The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge, at Jason’s blog—Connecting to Impact, and Sarah’s blog—Living Between the Lines. And even if you are not reading the book, please feel free to jump into the discussion!

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