Saturday, September 27, 2008

No Accident

Sometimes I look up at the night sky, and I’m just blown away by God. It breaks my heart that so many can look at creation and think that it was all a big string of impossible coincidences.

In both Matthew and Mark, Jesus is recorded as having said “With man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.” He was speaking specifically about salvation. But He said ALL things.

While I know this with my head, my heart has been slower to understand. My prayer life has grown dramatically this past year, but some of the things I was praying about I wasn’t really expecting. I was asking God for something knowing that He is able to do it, but assuming it wouldn’t be in His will for me.

The funny thing is, the more you seek God, the more the things you desire become the things He desires in your life. When what you want is something He wants to give you – He is just waiting for you to ask!

I’ve had a lot of answers to prayer lately. I don’t want to discuss all of them, but one hit me today and isn’t easy. I’ve been praying for God to help me see others the way He sees them. Things didn’t change for a while, but today it hit me like a freight train.

A small string of coincidences has brought my vision to a new clarity. Last night I was reading about praying for people who are lost, and then I was hit with a family member losing a friend who is to our knowledge lost. Only God can know that though.

All day I’ve been broken hearted for people who think they are doing ok because they are good people. Some of them are wonderful people – but to God they are still lost. Even standing in line at the grocery store, surrounded by tabloids – I felt my heart towards the lost is changed. Instead of being disgusted by the lifestyles of celebrities, I was saddened by their "I have it all taken care of" attitude that has left God out.

God will answer your prayers. It isn’t always easy – but He gives you the strength for what He has planned for you. Step out in faith and expect the impossible.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricanes and Hunger Pangs

The past few days we've been watching hurricane Ike entering the gulf and trying to predict where it is going to make landfall. I'm starting to think it is following me. I've come to East Texas to visit my family, and am already seeing the affects of the storm in the form of evacuees streaming into town.

Not only that - but it now looks like the storm is coming right this way after making landfall, possibly as a tropical storm. So in town there are lines at the gas stations, and certain items at grocery stores are being sold out. According to the weather channel - power outages are likely. We'll see - but my family has a generator so it isn't really an issue for us.

Perhaps because I grew up with family on the coast, I always marveled at what people think they need for three or four days. Certainly you can be without power for longer than that, but generally even if you are hard hit, you might need food and water for about that long. The fear of possibly being hungry is a powerful thing.

Growing up, I often heard about being "hungry" for God's Word. I guess I just passed it off as a figure of speech or some kind of analogy. Yet during the past year, I've been learning what it means to be hungry to hear from God.

When you think about it, a lot of us really focus on what we eat (speaking of physical food again). We go on diets, we read labels to make sure what we're eating is healthy, and we're picky! If you don't like peas - you aren't likely to buy a can of peas and cook it up as a side.

Yet so often - we fill our minds and our thoughts with things that aren't of God's kingdom. We go days, weeks, months, maybe even years without studying His Word. We aren't careful to set aside time to spend with him - we fill ourselves and our time with things that won't matter in even 5 years, much less beyond this lifetime.

So as the hurricane bears down on the coast - I watch those who have decided what they need to take, and those who want to stay and "protect" their belongings. It makes me think about what I really need - what would I most want to have with me in such a situation. And I'm reminded that when it comes down to it - all I really need is God.

Prayers for those in the path of the storm right now ...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Blessings Like Manna

Have you ever taken one of those spiritual gifts inventories? If you haven't, I'd say it is worth doing. Not only is it interesting, but it helps you see where your abilities are so that you can learn to use them to serve. My church offers a class on service, and I found it very enlightening that serving doesn't mean misery! Once you know your gifts - I suggest reading Boundaries, then you'll be better prepared about when to say "YES" and when (and how) to politely decline. If you are curious about gifts, there are some free surveys that can help give you some insight at the following links:
What got me started thinking about spiritual gifts was sitting down to write about one of mine. At first it surprised me that one of my strongest spiritual gifts was faith - I never considered myself to have particularly strong faith. But what I've learned over the past several months is that I've lived most of my life as a spiritual baby. I'd start to grow, then I'd slack off into a comfort zone of sorts.

The thing is - both our spiritual gifts and the zeal in our hearts require fuel. Our lives tend to run hot and cold ... like an unattended campfire allowed to simmer to warm ashes overnight, and be rekindled again in the evening. What would it take to keep that fire burning bright? We'd have to keep providing it fuel, and we'd have to keep fanning the flames.

A spiritual high at an event is an amazing thing. I had many of them growing up - camp, Dawson McAllister conferences, mission trips. Places where each day was lived out wholly aware of God and His Word. But then we'd come home, and it would be back to normal. I'd slowly stop reading my Bible, and my prayer life would dwindle to brief cries for help in moments of panic.

So, a spiritual gift, like a musical gift, requires practice. You may be gifted at the violin - but if you never pick it up - no one, including yourself, will be the wiser. So while my gift surprised me - once I started exercising it things started making more sense. I've grown so much more in 2008 than in the rest of my life.

I came to God for some much needed healing, and while I won't say it has been easy - He has come through, just as He promised me. Now I guard my heart like the treasure He says it is. If it is precious to God - it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. His love sustains me and I have faith that His love will not break my heart.

Slowly but surely, I let go my grip on the things in life that I'm afraid will spin out of control - or cease to exist - if I'm not holding them. My faith is growing that God's plans are always, always better than mine. When the voice of discouragement comes I run to God. I cover myself in prayer and His word. I surround myself with His people. My focus is on the things He commands - His work, His opinion. He sifts through me and washes away what is not of Him when I let everything go.

Time and again in the past months, even weeks! Even the past several DAYS! I pray and meditate, and when I'm sure of the direction God is pointing me - I boldly step beyond what I can see. And He has been there! He doesn't just catch me - He lifts me up higher to something I didn't even know was possible.

I'm aware that with growth will come pains, and that the flow of blessings in my life does not go unnoticed by the enemy. But I also know that God will not allow anything to happen that is not part of His plan - and His plan is good.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Everything Changes ... but Everything Stays the Same

Today I went to a part of Austin I don't really frequent ... the Drag. It's not actually at all what it sounds like. In the past, it was a collection of cute little shops (including some great "vintage" clothing shops) and local restaurants along Guadalupe (pronounced "Gwad-a-loop" rather than its Spanish accented origin) across from the University of Texas campus.

Many of the shops I remember are gone. In their place are more typical (as my hairstylist called them, "corporate") businesses. I know that is a trend across the nation - but this is Austin, home of "Keep Austin Weird" (meaning to support local businesses ... at least on the surface). I was sad, because I was going to get my haircut and thought it was a great opportunity to do a little shopping where I probably wouldn't buy anything.

So instead, I walked around campus. Part of me wishes I had brought my camera, but then again - why would I want any pictures of such a place? I went to Texas A&M ... pretty much the opposite of UT in every possible way. In reality - I think they are both great schools, depending on what you are studying - and I openly admit that I'll go for the Longhorns when they aren't playing my Aggies. However, I don't have a particular love of them.

A close friend of mine once said that UT's campus is more beautiful than A&M's ... but I disagree. In fact - I think any state college campus in Texas looks pretty similar. UT does have more statues, but A&M's statues offer you luck on finals for a measly penny.

Like any college campus I've ever visited, there is always construction - things are always changing. While I expected Austin to change while I was gone, I had no idea so much could happen in two years - toll roads, streets you once knew hardly recognizable other than the street sign, and open fields turned to outlet mall and Ikea monstrosities.

There are some places on the Earth, however, that seem to pass the time virtually untouched. I recently went to my stomping grounds in East Texas on a "business" trip. I expected things to have changed, and on one side of town they had grown, but otherwise - everything was exactly the same. It was weird, like being in some kind of bubble of time that had been forgotten in 80s and 90s.

All of this got me thinking how everything here on Earth is mortal. Even down to the clothes I'm wearing and the skin I'm in ... it's all borrowed, and for all that it changes - good and bad - the best is always yet to come.