Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Change of Scene

I stood in my kitchen, dazed from the energy lost by a vigorous cleaning. My eyes closed briefly. On the screen of my mind I saw a lifetime of chores stretched out before me like an endless string of camels crossing the Sahara. I felt a momentary pang, remembering the Saturdays of my childhood. Every Saturday was a blank page waiting to be filled with my favorite things. Those days are gone. Now, the pages of my days are scribbled on before I ever arrive. With a sigh of resignation, I began to sort through the mail on my counter.

The letter from India came with two pictures of my sponsored child, one happy with the Christmas gift I had sent, and another of the Christmas meal he had enjoyed with the other boys living at the home. It was one line of his letter that burned into my heart. "I regularly read Bible and pray for you and your children." Stunned, I put down the letter. He prays for me? The thought had never before occurred to me. I was the one who was supposed to pray for him. Before I could stop them, the tears came.

I know I am just one of thousands of typical American moms, driving the minivan, over-scheduled, plagued by the guilt of not keeping up, not doing enough. And he is the typical sponsored child, needy, without family, dutifully thanking his sponsor for sharing a little of her American dollars. But in that moment I was given grace to see the truth. In the Spirit, those labels don't exist. He and I are two beautiful souls woven together by prayer. That is the power of prayer. Our two souls kneel, neither one above the other, but both at our Father's feet, brother and sister in Christ. We are forever bound by the love of Jesus.

The picture in my mind changed to a scene in Heaven. I saw myself meeting this dear boy, speaking face to face with laughter. I saw a Saturday there, together with him, fresh as a new sheet of paper... waiting to be filled with all of our favorite things.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Flesh and Blood

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

I blinked in the silence of my children's stares. I had a blazing letter "H" on my chest. I could see it reflected in their eyes. Hypocrite. All of my efforts to teach them self-control seemed wasted now. My youngest son, once again, "forgot" the rules, chose not to obey, chose to do whatever he wanted. And this time, I threw off my own self-control like a pair of flip-flops, and jumped in with him. I lost my temper. I raised my voice, and said whatever I wanted. I got good and mad. We wallowed in the mud of sinful self-indulgence, he and I. And when it was all over, regret made the stains that much more stubborn.

Why is this so hard? Must every day be a bloody battle against one I love so dearly? No other person in my life has tried my patience as relentlessly as this little son of mine.

This would never happen to my friend, "Faith." She has an angelic brood of girls at her house, and I bet she never raises her voice to them. She is a faithful woman of God and an inspiration to all who know her. No, she would never.

She would never. This is the thought I punished myself with as I fell asleep, defeated and discouraged. I dreamt of Faith that night. I waited at her house until she came. She walked in and headed for the shower, looking tired and down after a long, hard day. After a minute, I heard angry shouting. I gasped. That sounded like Faith! One of her daughters must have irritated her after her hard day. She's not perfect after all! I headed toward the sound and put my ear against the bathroom door. "I will not let you get me down!" she yelled. "I will not be discouraged! The Bible says..."

I had heard enough to know Faith wasn't yelling at one of her children. She was yelling at the devil.

The morning sun broke through my dream, and I opened  my eyes to the reality of another day. Fresh. New. Mercy upon mercy. I slipped to my knees and thanked my Father for the reminder. I am in a daily battle, but it isn't against my son, my flesh and blood. It's against the one who currently rules the world. Satan is after the hearts and minds of my children. He's after my heart and mind, too. He wants me to believe that there is a perfect mother out there somewhere to compare myself to, because as long as I am busy doing that, I won't be focused on my perfect Heavenly Father.

Son, whether you know it or not, I am on your side. You and I are on the same team. We are in a battle, Buddy. But we have the Champ on our side! We have the Super Hero of all super heroes with us to save the day. Every day. He has shiny, dart-quenching armour for us to wear and swords for us more powerful than all of your light sabers. So, let's do this thing together. We can do it. I love you, flesh and blood and heart and soul, until it hurts.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


"As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near." (2 Timothy 4:6, NLT)
I have a confession to make. By the end of most days, my drama queen comes out and wants to commiserate with Paul here. "Tell me about it, Paul. I've been there, man. Near death due to excessive self-sacrifice? Yes. I think I'm there right now after the day I've had."

You can laugh at me. I'm laughing at me, because I know this is not what Paul meant when he wrote these words. And yes, I do realize that I have never been beaten, imprisoned, starved, or shipwrecked for the sake of Christ. I have no right to lump myself with Paul.

But, the truth is, I have been pulled in ten different directions in any given hour, puked on, pooped on, peed on, spit on, shot with dart guns, laughed at, cried at, yelled at, complained to, tattled to, and countlessly begged and questioned. I feel used. And I think this is a common complaint among women, whether or not we are mothers. Women, in my experience, give and give until we often feel sucked completely dry.
Our third inspirational woman has been on my heart for months. Her act of worshipful giving and what followed has helped me see my life with new eyes:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”(John 12:1-8)
I feel like I've been having a never-ending conversation with God about this passage. He's kept me here, I think, because what I can learn is so life-changing, He doesn't want me to leave until I get it. I'm still here. I might be here for awhile, but these are some things I've learned so far:

The difference between living a "poured-out" life and a "poor me" life is all in my mind.

Loving my family, my job, and my life is not enough. Despite all the love, every now and then I'll catch a naughty thought running around in my mind like a naked toddler:

 "Everyone around here gets the weekend off but me."
"If I weren't here this place would fall apart."
 "Nobody realizes how much I sacrifice."
"Why doesn't anyone else see all these things that need to be done?"
 "I'm tired of volunteering for stuff. Let someone else have a turn."

 If I don't catch these thoughts right away, in a matter of minutes they can put down roots in my mind and start growing. Before I know it, I'm living the "poor me" life playing the part of Bitter Betty, Martyr Mommy and Worn-Out Wife all wrapped up in one frightening package. 

It turns out these roles are completely unfulfilling, because the thoughts they are based on are only half truths at best and really more like outright lies. The Bible tells me lies have a father and his name is Satan. I really don't want Satan's babies running around in my head. Ephesians 4:23 tells me instead to be made new in the attitude of my mind.

No one forced Mary to pour out her expensive perfume on Jesus. She didn't feel obligated or guilty. She wasn't resentful that no one else was doing it. I believe she did it because she wanted to. She was compelled by love for Jesus and Jesus alone. But dare I say even loving Jesus is not enough? Because no matter how I love Him, even still the thoughts will come. So how do I be made new in the attitude of my mind? There is only one way. My mind is renewed by the Word of God. A lying thought comes. I must catch it quickly and bring it to my Lord.

"Lord, Your Word says to come to You and You will give me rest."
"Lord, Your Word says that You are the one who holds all things together--not me."
"Lord, Your Word says that when I humble myself before You, You will lift me up."
"Lord, Your Word says that whatever I do, I should do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father--not complaining."
"Lord, Your Word says to never tire of doing good."

 If I want to live a poured-out life for Jesus, I must renew my mind.

I am the perfume.

 For quite a time after I began meditating on this passage, I tried to re-create the scene between Mary and Jesus. I wanted to do what she did and have that precious moment with him. I would kneel down in my bedroom, close my eyes, and imagine a jar of perfume in my hands. I imagined Jesus before me and myself pouring the perfume. Only I could never decide whether to pour it on his head or his feet. If I poured it on his head it might sting his eyes. If I went for his feet it didn't seem like enough coverage. As silly as this sounds, I actually had some sweet times of worship as a result, just telling Him that I wanted to pour my praise on Him. But then I would leave my room, be instantly confronted with the chaos of life, and it would all evaporate.

One day, I finally heard what he had probably been saying to me the whole time: "You are the perfume. There is nothing more expensive or dear that you could give me but you. Your worship is not just a moment in your quiet room. It is every moment if you choose it. Every breath you take, every word you speak is an act of worship if you make it so." Yes, of course! Didn't I already know this? I thought I did. But I don't really know something until I've lived it. And I haven't lived this way. Not really. But, oh how I want to.

In that moment when I am dog-tired, the last one up, and crying for bed, and realize that I have forgotten something that must be done before morning--it is then that I want to stop myself before I sigh and whine. I want to be perfume poured out then, while I do what needs to be done with a heart that remembers Jesus did everything for me. He died for me. And in living every moment for Him, I am sweet perfume, poured out on my Savior.

There will be naysayers. Go ahead and let them say nay. 

Mary was criticized for what she did. The room did not stand up and applaud her or thank her for her inspirational display of generosity. There will always be someone to criticize my efforts at living a poured-out life. Instead of encouraging a life of self-sacrifice, many will argue that it is more important to fill my days with "me time," pampering, and self-indulgence in order to make me a happier, more fulfilled woman. But, I just can't seem to find that verse in my Bible. What Jesus teaches is quite the opposite. And it is what He thinks that really matters to me. Jesus defended Mary. He acknowledged her sacrifice and called it a beautiful thing in the book of Matthew. What the world calls foolish, Jesus calls beautiful. 

Living a poured-out life smells good. 

I love that what Mary did for Jesus affected everybody. The whole house was filled with the fragrance of her perfume. I will tell you the opposite is also true. When I am in a "poor me" frame of mind, I stink, and everybody around me smells it. My whole family gets cranky when I am cranky. But when I am intentionally worshipful throughout my day, the house is filled with sweetness. Not only is Jesus blessed, but so are the people with me.

Jesus is the best example of a poured-out life.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Jesus was a fragrant offering on the altar that should have been mine. He poured out His life for me. The greatest thing I can do in response is to imitate Him.

Oh, let me see You, Jesus, ever before me as I go about my work. Let me see your face on every person I encounter in this life. Let my life be an act of worship, fragrant and pleasing to You. I pour out my thanks, my praise, my adoration, and all my love on You.  



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