Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Praying For Light

Lately, I've been praying for light. Light to uncover darkness in deception and sin, and the light to see the next part of the path that I'm walking on. Last night as I was driving home, the full moon was so luminescent that it lit up the entire sky, mimicking that of 7:00 P.M. rather than 11 P.M. That beautiful moon lit up everything underneath him, casting a pearlized glow on the ordinary.

Tonight, Mother Nature exchanged the moon for an intense thunderstorm, torrential sheets of rain and wind invading the evening hours. As I drove up the hill to my home, the bright lights on my car revealed just enough of the road for me to see where I was going. As I slowly wound my way around the bend, I felt Jesus tugging at my heart, communicating to me that, just like the intensely lit moon and the bright lights on my car that allowed just enough light to see through the sheets of wind and rain, so does God provide just enough of His light for me to walk through life. Where we need to see, He'll be sure we do. It is in that darkness that we have to trust that soon enough there will be a candle in a window.

2nd Samuel 22:29 says "You are my lamp, oh Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light."

May the God of light and luminosity shine His hope into your soul. May you rest in the truth that that which needs to be revealed is already revealed, and His light will never burn out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The World Needs More Leahs

One of the greatest blessings that God has given to me since being in Cannon Falls is the Women's Bible study that I help lead at the church that I attend. It has served a purpose to me much like a secret tree house in some near by, woodsy area would for a little girl; a means of escape, inspiration, comfort, encouragement and hope in the middle of so many hectic and challenging weeks.

We just recently finished a Bible study series entitled " Bad Girls of the Bible", by Liz Curtis Higgs. We started with the first book, and after it was apparent that the Holy Spirit was working through that resource, we decided to do the next book in the series. As we learned in depth about many of the well known (and not so well known) women of the Bible; the mistakes that they made, and the God who redeemed them with His grace, it was like looking into a mirror and seeing the flaws of my own character, with the hope that those flaws were only an opportunity for God to show Himself flawless and capable to do great things in my life.

One of the women we studied was Leah, number one wife of Jacob in physical secession of his two wives, but second and last in his heart, as he was in love with Leah's sister, Rachel. I remember hearing this famous story from the book of Genesis multiple times throughout my life, but never before have I viewed Leah, the "understudy" wife with the "weak eyes", in such a way as I do today. (This story can be found in the Bible, in the book of Genesis in chapter 28-31). Please read these chapters to refresh your knowledge or gain new insight on this story before moving forward with this post.

While studying Leah, the heart of the matter was understanding if she really had much of a choice to be involved in the trickery of her uncle Laban: being handed to Jacob as his wife, as per their marital custom of that time. We wavered back and forth as a group, trying to decide in our hearts whether or not Leah had a choice in the matter. But as we dove deeper into the personal choices that she had to make, it became apparent that that wasn't what God was trying to communicate to His children.
It seems that anyone who has read this classic Bible story has always felt bad for Leah, because Leah was described as being "unpretty and unloved" by her husband Jacob. I cannot imagine how painful it would be to be married to a man who wasn't attracted to me, didn't demonstrate his love toward me, and used me only as a reproductive machine to push out babies to continue his name sake. All the while your beautiful, knock out of a sister has your husband's heart and affections. What a painful existence.

There are so many elements to this story that are worthy of discussing, but I'm going to stay focused on what the Lord taught me through the life of Leah. Leah loved Jacob, and that love was never returned. The Lord graciously blessed her with multiple children, with every birth wishing and hoping that "maybe this time he will love me". What Leah initially missed is that even though Jacob loved Rachel, God loved Leah. In the study, Liz Curtis Higgs shares the research that "...God loved her, and knew that child bearing was "the only way to achieve status in her own family and community." " The following is the paragraph that hit me like a ton of bricks:

"Leah looked at the children around her feet, gazed up at the heavens above, and realized how very much she was loved, how clearly blessed she as among women. With a heart full of joy, Leah lifted her voice to the One who mattered the most. "...this time, I will praise the Lord." Gen. 29:35.
What a woman! Instead of blaming God for what she didn't have, she began praising God for what she did have. "Now I will praise the Lord!"(AMP). "

Leah had to come to a place in her heart where the love of her Lord was truly enough. She had to go through the pain of being unloved in a marriage and hated by her own sister's jealousy of her fertility to see God's sovereignty in her life. God saw her, he heard her and he loved her deeply, evident in His provision. God didn't want Leah for anyone else, He set her apart for Himself and Himself alone.
How many women spend their precious time and energy wanting to be "seen and heard", and doing whatever they possibly can to have this? How many women have been tossed aside in families, relationships, friendships and churches, unseen and unheard? Too many my friends. Far too many. How many of us ( male and female) seek to be seen and heard by faulty humans, and turn our backs on the One who tenderly knitted together every facet of our beautiful being, paying great attention and detail to everything from eye color to the personality that was designed to communicate His beauty and His love?

The title and inspiration for this blog was inspired by a comment that was made by an individual that stated that "The world needs more Ruth's". While I don't disagree with this statement, it was impressed upon my heart to communicate to you that this world "needs more Leah's". This world is in sore need of women who love Jesus, and can come to a place in their hearts and lives where He is enough. A place where Christian women all over the world, can raise their hands to the heavens and boldly declare that "They surrender all" to their Jesus. All of the pain, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, bitterness, deception and questions of "why". Leah stopped asking "Why" and "When", and rested in the love of her Jesus, knowing that she had been seen and heard by the One who mattered the most.

As Christians, we need to be in prayer for the women in our lives. What freedom can be achieved and what joy can be received, if every woman and girl, in every church body, claimed these as her own?! How would this affect every facet of their lives, and lives of those they've invested in? Only God can do such a miracle, only the God of Leah can break such high walls and bitter hearts.

"My soul alone finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken." -Psalm 62 1-2.

Male or female, girl or boy, young or old: May you find the hope and the freedom of resting in the fact that you are seen and heard by the Lord Jesus Christ. May you rest in this beautiful truth, and find the strength that you need fight on the battle ground of this earthly world. May you not be shaken, and if you are shaken, may you not be ripped off your feet by the enemy that seeks to kill and destroy this hope that God has imparted upon you. May you have the courage "be a Leah".


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Free To Be Me", and The Fashion Blunder

I absolutely love it when things "tie together". Whether it be in a conversation where you are verbally "connecting the dots" with somebody, a research paper where all of the quotes and information take the form of an actual piece of organized work, rather then a slew of white index cards scattered on a table. Or, such as in this case, an evening where it was evident that the Lord was orchestrating a theme/life lesson through a series of conversations, comments, and shared experiences.

I'm going to start this story with a fashion blunder that was unknowingly made at the start of my day. It had to have been about 45 degrees most of the day, with winds that made it feel even colder. I haven't had the time yet to go down to storage and pull out warmer clothes, and it seems like a sin to wear tights in the middle of september. My wardrobe has not quite transitioned from summer to fall, and even if it did transition all by itself, the craziness of my life would not have been able to keep up with the change. So, with that being said, on went the brown leggings and boots, with not a thought put into it, other than "this will keep me warm today and it matches". Between a memory care luncheon outing that used nearly all of my alloted daily brain and body power, cleaning the craft room, cooresponding to emails, trying to plan the October activity calendar, filling out insurance forms and running to Bible study, I had been going strong all day long, with a million and one things on my mind.

After a whole day went by in my leggings and boots, I was reprimanded by one of the teen girl's at church that I was "never to wear those leggings with that dress again." At first I was a bit shocked, because for most of my life, I have paid careful attention to what I wear and the impression that I give people. But then I came to a great realization. "I simply don't care!". It was like this mini mile stone marker as an adult. I certainly will take her advice, that is for sure, as I have demonstrated the fact that I may need a little assistance in the fashion department from time to time. Also, I spent a good 10 minutes looking at my fashion blunder, kind of amazed I had gone a whole day without a thought to those leggings. But, the mini mile stone marker is that I don't define myself by my appearance; that I have spent a lot of personal time cultivating that which is inside and the talents, gifts and calling that the Lord has blessed me with. I think I'm finally beginning to experience that personal freedom that comes from feeling free to be who I am, without any apologies, wishing to be different or comparing myself to other individuals.

And what did the Bible study topic just happen to be that night? "Free to be Me". As a group we discussed our individual talents, gifts and passions, and how unique and beautiful that each one is to the body of Christ. That although God's will for us is about HIM and how He desires to use us to further His kingdom and glorify His existance, He has created each of His children as uniquely as a finger print; not one of them the same, but all of them contributing something beautiful to His divine plan. I think that women especially get so caught up in what is the "right" thing to wear, have, do, etc. and somehow we feel inadequate and/or incomplete if we don't do "the right thing". Praise the Lord that as Christians, we have a right to that peace of knowing that our self worth lies within what He thinks of us. "...For a man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1st Samuel 16:5-7. We can also have confidence in the fact that if we invest in our relationship with Him, diligently study His love letters to us, and take time to listen to His voice, we are investing our time and energy into something far more important than the latest fashion trend. In my short 24 years of life, I have come to find that the most valuable fashion accessory lies within 1st Peter 3:3-4 . I love how the "New Living translation" words it.

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

What peace we can find in these verses. We won't ever be able to truly keep up with what is "right" in the world of fashion and appearance, for a variety of reasons. However, if we continually invest and cultivate the inner beauty that can only come from Jesus Christ, we can rest in that truth. For a woman at rest with herself is a beautiful thing indeed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Half Tank of Gas

A few weeks ago, I had plans to go visit my family over Labor Day weekend. I had carefully managed my finances to make sure that I would have enough money for gas there and back, especially because it was the week before pay day, which is always a tight week.

I thought I had covered all of my bases, when I failed to remember an automatic payment that literally took my gas money away. I wasn't sure how I was going to get home, and after a good cry, I realized that I might not make it home. As I cut and pasted my way through being upset at my current reality, (Making signs for the "Resident's of the Day") I realized that it was an opportunity to "accept life on life's terms".

After reaching that place of acceptance, my mom called. I explained to her what happened, and told her that even though I was sad at the reality, I was willing to accept it. Then my mom asked me how much gas I had left, to which I replied " A half tank". I could hear the smile in her voice when she said "Sarah, a half tank of gas will get you home. I'll pay for your trip back"

Isn't that just like God? He provides that half tank of gas; He provides just enough for us to make it home. And furthermore, He'll meet us half way. And to truly put the "cherry on the top", when we can't even make it half way, He'll come to us. In fact, He'll always come to us, we just have to be willing to let Him take residence in our lives.

I think one of our greatest challenges in life is to do just that; "Accept life on life's terms". Somehow we get conditioned to think that life has to be on our terms, and if it's not on "normal" terms ( normal would be defined as how the world views it) then there must be something not quite right. A classic example of not accepting life on life's terms is using credit cards when there are no actual funds to draw from at that moment. The reality is that there is no money to buy what you want or need, so instead of accepting that, we swipe the plastic which puts things on our terms.

Lately, I've come to learn that I don't want things on my terms. One of my all time favorite quotes is by Joshua Harris. "The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing." When it's not in God's timing, when it's not apart of His present plan, it is truly wrong for us at that time. I think it's absolutely essential to our peace to come to that place of accepting that we don't really know what we truly need and when that perfect timing is. We chase after it, we look for "signs", and we continually ask God "Is this it?" but the truth is, until it's on His terms, we won't really know; And, we have to trust Him that when it is time to know, He'll show us.

Oh friends, that is what it all boils down to... trust. Trusting Him in the midst of uncertainty, fear and longing. Trusting and believing that just like that half tank of gas that was left in my car, He'll bring us the rest of the way home, just in the nick of time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beauty in Wrinkles

What is beauty? I would venture to say that there is at least one thousand definitions to describe the word "beauty", for as they say, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". The concept of beauty plays a monumental part in our existance. Without beauty, life would be dull and unappealing. Imagine life without the brilliant, artist color pallete, mixed into hues and shades that could only be created by God, the master artist Himself. Our world has created standards of beauty, but starting right now, I would like to challenge you to look beyond the standard and find beauty in things that are unnoticed; in things that may not be inititally as striking as a Hawaiian sunset.

This afternoon at work, I took pictures of my residents and their family members for no charge to them. Earlier that morning I had two wonderful volunteers come in and do makeovers for my residents. Through the mist of hair spray, the heat of the curling iron and the laughter in the fellowship, it was evident to me that my female residents were not only feeling "good", but were actually beginning to feel "pretty".

Think about it. How difficult would it be to feel pretty at 85? Your hair isn't as full as full as it used to be, and this includes your eyebrows and eyelashes. your makeup doesn't go on as smoothly because it lands in all the creases of your wrinkles, and you hide your true smile because your teeth are a bit cracked and some may be missing. You struggle to be fashionable in your shoe choices, as they only make supportive tenny shoes in a limited amount of colors. Not to mention that if your eye sight is poor, you can't clearly see any of those factors anyways, so you are always at the mercy of those around you.

Just look at those pictures. There is no other word then "beautiful" to describe them. In every "old" person is a young girl or boy; they still have youth to spare. We can only hope to radiate the beauty that these people do. It is at this age that true beauty is more evident. When everything seems to be "falling apart" physically, it is then that the inner beauty of these individuals shines through. Beautiful is a woman at rest with her life with a radiant smile, or a man who is still deeply in love with his bride of over 60 years. That, my friend, is beauty. As Christians, we are called to step beyond the standards of the world. When we do this, we physically and spiritually break the walls of this world, raising the bar, and reaching the lost.

May you have the courage to not only cultivate your inner beauty, but to also encourage that same cultivation in the lives of those around you. May you be reminded that unlike our bodies, God's precious, deep and beautiful love does not fall apart or fade, but remains intact in this life and the life to come.