“What Is My Job Here?…”

“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:10-12

This season is a hard time in our house each year.  Given my husband’s profession, he works crazy hours to get everything done before the end of the year.  And that is not easy because so many people wait until this time to begin work on certain projects.  So it isn’t unusual for him to work 80 hours a week, or more.  My job is pretty hectic too, and we add all the school, family and church activities that come along with the holidays – so things have a way of overwhelming us pretty quickly.  We are so busy, that no wonder I contemplate being at Target for the 1:00 a.m. Black Friday sale.  It is the only free time I have to go.

However, this morning, as I watched my bedraggled beloved run out the door (literally) to get to work, a moment of clarity hit me.  “What is my job here?”  Many things run through my head:  to-do lists for work, cooking for Thanksgiving, Christmas decorating, school projects for the kids….

But the Lord spoke deeply into my heart today.  “He is your first job,” He told me.  As I watched the car disappear up the street, I realized that my first commitment is, and always should be, to my spouse.   Absolutely everything in our family’s world hinges on my relationship with him.  We are the cornerstone.  We live in covenant to love and care for each other until death do us part.

And I felt really badly, because I have let many other things take his place recently. I have dropped the ball on my end of our covenant.   It seems that I always give my attention to those wheels that squeak the loudest, and he never squeaks at all.  He just keeps on going, doing the best he can, while my focus remains on the endless needs of others.

So I am praying today; asking God what my husband needs from me.  What is it that I can do that would bless him greatly?  What are the needs he has that I have neglected?  What would make his life easier during this stressful period?  What else could be more important for me to spend my time and energy on?  What should I be saying no to, in order to take better care of my soulmate?

Heavenly Father,

You have blessed me with a wonderful man to share my life with.  I cannot imagine living without him.  Forgive me for allowing so many other things to edge him out of my priority list.  Help me to put him first –  before kids, before work, and anything else that would compete for my attention.  Help me to bless him richly.  Help me to love him in a way that speaks deeply to him.  And help me to understand his needs clearly.

In the name of the Holy Bridegroom I pray,

Amen

“72 Steps…”

“I can’t wait to get there!” I exclaimed as we worked to load the car.  “I am going to climb the mountain,” Andrew said.  “I am going to watch the sunrise,” said Laura.  “I am going hiking,” added David.

Here it was.  The day our church staff had been greatly anticipating, Staff Sabbath.  A time that we take as a group to leave the office (our church,) and go to a place where we can unplug and renew our spirits.  We have no set agenda, we just each go and do whatever feeds our souls.

I was especially excited because we were headed to Sumatanga, so named because it is a place of rest and vision.  I could not wait to take my blanket down to the lake, lie down and just breathe in the presence of God.  This is where I pray the best and where I seem to hear God the clearest – out by the lake, in the silence and listening for the rustle of the trees.

And I needed it badly.  I had felt somewhat disconnected from God for some time and my soul felt empty. I took my journal and my drawing pad.  I prayed.  I read a book, I took a nap – It was awesome!  And, I was completely alone with God, what peace.  Although we had all come to this wonderful place together, we never stay with each other.  We always go our own ways and spend the day in worship any way we choose.  And it is normally different for each of us.

So as we journeyed home in the evening, I lamented that I could not have that experience every day.  My life would be so rich and full if I could only experience His presence like that every day.  But, life calls with work, kids, house and other responsibilities.  So I guess our quarterly retreat day would have to do.

The next day I was at work, and had to go out back for something.  And guess what I discovered?  We have a lake on our church property!  It is beautiful and peaceful, and most definitely a thin place, where the Spirit of God is truly accessible.  Here, just 72 steps from my office was the very thing that I had been longing for all this time.  How had I missed it??

By now you have figured out that I jest.  Of course I knew the lake with the beautiful prayer trail wrapped around it was there.  I can see it from my office window.  But everyday I walk past it because I am in a hurry to get everything done that dominates my to-do list.  I feel guilty if I take the time to go out sit by lake, just listening.  After all, I am being paid good money to help people find their way to God.  Surely, I can’t take time out of my busy schedule to do something so unproductive.  Can I??

Here’s the thing friends.  God knows what I need.  He understands how my mind, body and spirit operate.  I am a contemplative soul.  I need quiet, reflection time to gain clarity and peace in all aspects of my life.  And in His infinite grace, He has abundantly provided me with that opportunity right outside my door.  How foolish am I to walk past this gift each day and not take advantage of it?  I know it would make me better at my job.  And I know it would lead me to a better quality of life.  Because in that setting, my soul is renewed.  I am strengthened.

What is it that you need to have a better quality of life?  What do you need to fill your soul?  Is it exercise?  Is it music or art?  Is it to delve deeply into His Word each day?  Or maybe it is more down time with loved ones.  Whatever way God fills your soul, please don’t consider it a luxury or self-indulgence.  Take advantage of the opportunities He is giving us to become molded into the people He plans for us to be.  Find your peaceful place, and fight for it if need be.  Because certainly the world will strive to take it away from us if we allow it.

Maybe you run so hard, you honestly don’t know what things might help you to slow down and experience His presence.  If that is the case, you might try reading, “Sacred Pathways,” by Gary Thomas.  It is a wonderful book that helps us to find the specific ways in which we might connect with God the best.  And there are many.  Or, you might simply think about the times you have felt closest to Him, and try to determine why that was the case.  Either way, it is an exercise that brings so much good into your life.  It is worth the effort.

My prayer for each of us today is that we would all learn enough about ourselves that we would know how best to feel God’s presence.  I pray that we would come to an understanding of how important daily connection is, and that we would each develop the heart of a God Chaser.  Let us pursue our peace with determination and priority.

Seek peace my friends.

“He leads me beside still waters; He renews my soul…”  Psalm 23

If you would like to purchase the book, please feel free to visit our Amazon store for both paperback and kindle versions:

http://astore.amazon.com/libecrosuni0a-20?node=2&page=3

 

“Masks…”

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” – Andre Berthiaume

Last Thursday I wore a suit to work.  Navy pinstripes, heals, etc.  It was quite out of character for me since my daily uniform consists of khakis and pullovers.  But Thursday was a sacred event, a memorial service, and dictated something better than my normal attire.

Something strange happened as soon as I put it on.  I clasped my necklace, looked in the mirror, and saw someone else looking back at me.  In putting on the suit, I had put on an old, familiar mask.

There was a time in my life that suits were what I wore every day.  A time, for over 15 years, when every day’s success was based, largely in part, by my appearance.  My “career” was in investment sales.  And my successes were based upon getting people to trust me enough to give me their hard earned money.  Hence the expensive suits.

But it was more than just clothes.  There was a carefully crafted mask as well.  The mask that told the world I was confident, very good at what I did, professional, hard working, dependable, the list goes on.  But I had worked for years to create the appearance of someone that could be trusted to get the job done.  This was not only for my clients, but also for my managers.  The failure rate in that industry is very high.  It is high stress, highly competitive and highly aggressive.  If you are to succeed, you have to have a “take no prisoners” attitude.

I did well at it because that was the environment that I had grown up in as well.  I was always taught to “Show no fear,” “If you are not first you are last,” and of course the golden rule, “do unto others before they can do unto you.”  The sum statement for most of my life was, “You are only as valuable as what you produce.” So in everything I every did, I was a producer.

But that was only on the outside.  On the inside, I had all these fears and self-doubts.  I never felt safe unless I was working myself to death.  I never trusted anyone past, “what I could do for them.”  Because I knew that the moment I stopped producing whatever it was that I was trying to do, then I wouldn’t be valuable any more.  That is a hard way to live folks.  And it is incredibly lonely.

So when I began my ministry, you can imagine that all that changed, right?  WRONG.  Those assumptions were so ingrained, that it has taken me 10 years of pulling that mask off, piece by piece, to begin to understand the grace of God and my intrinsic value to Him.

And pulling the mask off hurts.  Andre was right.  When you begin to pull the mask off, you are not only removing what you have constructed, you are most likely removing things that you believe about yourself.  After all, you can lie for so long that even you believe it to be true.

For example, if I truly believe that I am not safe in a job unless I am producing, then when will I take time off?  Never.  When will I attend to my own needs?  Never.  When will I make my family my first priority?  Never.  I can’t afford to, I will lose my job.  So I live in constant fear, and work like a maniac.  And I can lie to myself and say I am doing for my family.  But really, I am doing it all because I couldn’t bear the rejection of being a non-performer.

And these lies don’t just apply to work.  It is a very hard concept for me (still) to believe that anyone likes (much less loves) me just for me; and not for what I can give them.  In my brain, that doesn’t compute.  So you can imagine how hard it is to live fully into relationships with others without being guarded.  And it is almost impossible to let anyone get to know the real you.  There is no value in sharing your hurts or your vulnerabilities is there?  We better keep those things to ourselves, lest we find ourselves alone.

My friends, I am a work in progress, and it has taken a decade for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to soften my heart.  But He is still working at it – softening my heart toward myself and those around me. He is allowing me the time to get to know myself, and to be comfortable in my own skin.  And that is a priceless gift.  I am the lost sheep, the one separated from the 99.  And He has promised to carry me on His shoulders until I am fully secure inside the flock.  And why?  Because He says I am worth it.  He also says I am worth dying for.  What a Savior!

It is my prayer for each of you this day, that you would begin to look beneath your own mask.  What walls have you constructed?  What parts of yourself are you hiding for fear of rejection?  Behold, sweet child of God, for He knows you intimately and loves you just as you are.  Try to lay that burden of a mask down, and accept the grace of God and His family – You are beloved; no changes required.

Peace my friends.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:29

“Waiting…”

“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.”

Psalm 90:13-17

“The waiting is the hardest.”  I have heard that phrase so many times over the last few weeks.  People in all sorts of circumstances: waiting to hear test results, waiting to find out about a job, waiting to see if they still have a job, waiting for a relationship to get better…

Why is it that the waiting, either in anticipation or in dread, creates within us such a tension?  I have observed, especially in the anxiety-ridden situations, that it is not the fear of the outcome that causes us such stress; but rather, the lack of control over the situation.

We deal with our fears, as long as we can have some control over the process.  For example, one friend shared with me that they could handle the bad diagnosis, “I just want to know what it is so we can get on with my treatment.”

Another, just a couple of weeks ago, “I can handle not getting the job, I just need to know so I can start working on another plan.”

Maybe you are like me, and many others, that believe they can deal with anything as long as:

1.  We have all the information; and

2.  We can create a plan to address the situation

In dealing with my own maddening situation of waiting recently, it occurred to me that the waiting is God’s gift to me.  And to wish myself through it speedily, or to let my emotions overtake me in it, is robbing me of that gift.

For me, the period of waiting is all about trying to regain control of whatever situation I have found myself in.  That is where my security is, my ability to control the outcome.  Or, maybe, if I am having a good “faith day,” it is about waiting on God to intervene on my behalf.  You know those prayers, I bet.

“Please Lord, give us good results.”  “Please heavenly Father, resolve this situation – QUICKLY.”  Or, my most frequent, “Where are You, Lord?  I have been praying so long.  Don’t You hear me?  I need you to fix this – NOW!”

So here I am, anxiety-filled, seeking the Lord, day after day.  Praying that He would move on my behalf.  Praying that He would take control of this situation and wondering why He hasn’t acted already.  Could it be that there is more to this than simply getting my wishes granted?

How often do I earnestly seek Him?  How often do I make a point of spending quality time in prayer, especially when things are going well for me?

I am beginning to think that the waiting is God’s gift to me.  It is a time in which I am reminded of my dependence on Him, so I chase after Him.  I pursue Him, and sometimes, I even listen to Him (a novel thought!)  And I do these things because I have no other options.

In the last twenty years, I have had some very long periods of waiting for God.  And I reflect on those times as some of the best in our relationship.  I can think back on the times in which I could do nothing about my circumstances, and His presence was such a comfort, a blessing, a manifestation of peace. He was there with me, not alleviating my distress, but walking through it with me.

In those times, my faith became real.  I wasn’t just singing a nice song on Sunday morning about His love.  I was living on His faithfulness and promises on a daily basis, even though I had no evidence of them yet.  I was trusting in His Word, and not allowing worry to overtake me.  And that is a very hard choice to make each day.  So the time I would spend with Him was a priority and rich with interaction.  Those are the times I can remember as being the most fruitful in my spiritual growth and my knowledge of Him.  They were good times in the midst of bad seasons.

My friends, if you are in a time of waiting, I pray that you would allow Him to come alongside you, to minister to you, and to love you in a way that maybe isn’t possible when all is right with your world.  Allow Him to shower you with grace, and manifest His love for you in a way that you may never have experienced.  Maybe the miraculous act of God we are waiting for is not the end result, but the work He does with us in the in-between.

Blessings of grace and peace to you on this day.