“No. You May Not Have My Email Address…”

“God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You on behalf of Your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know You. Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power.” – Ephesians 1:17-19

I was shopping with my daughter this past weekend.  As we stood to check out at a retail establishment, the sales associate asked for my email address.  I said no.  She continued, “But I need your email address to finish the transaction.”  “No you don’t.” I replied. She pressed on explaining how, by giving her my address, I would receive wonderful coupons and promotions.  I still refused.  This impasse continued until the manager came over and proceeded to finish my transaction (without my email!)

As we were leaving, my daughter asked why I wouldn’t give the nice lady my email address.  Without thinking I replied that this particular store didn’t need that kind of access to my brainspace.  Then it took me another 30 minutes to explain my comments.

The way I see it, I am bombarded with junk email everyday.  I spend countless amounts of time sifting through messages that mean nothing to me.  I don’t worry over it, but it does take up time and energy to delete all of them.  And I don’t need them in the first place.  I know where the store is.  I know what they sell.  If I need something from them, I will go and get it.  I don’t need them trying to sell me something twice a week.

I figure many of you might feel the same way.  If I don’t give out my email address, then I control my contact with all these outside entities competing for my attention and money – and not the other way around.  Hence, my resistance.

However my thought today leads me to question this attitude when it comes to God.  Do I have the same consumer mentality when it comes to my relationship with Him?

Do I openly seek His input in all aspects of my life, or do I put Him on a shelf, only to be retrieved when I need something?  Is my attitude one of humble obedience in all matters, or does my pride lead me to be “king of my own destiny” until something falls apart?

I think about these things because I know myself.  I know that I have a deep-seeded need for control over all things in my life, probably more than most of you.  Not only do I like the idea of being self-sufficient, but I also don’t like anyone interfering with my carefully constructed life.  Not even God.  Although I call myself a Christ-follower, sometimes I question whether I am following His lead, or asking Him to follow and bless mine.  Maybe it’s time that I consider opening my heart, mind and will to Him a little more and living the plan He has for me.  I wonder what that would look like.

How about you, my friends?

Grace and peace to you.

“It Was a Long, Dark, and Eerie Road…”

This is a true story.

I live in a somewhat remote area.  And the main road that I use to “get to town” is long and winding with no lighting whatsoever for several miles.  When driving on it, you feel as if you are driving through a forest.  And along with this forest comes a variety of wildlife: deer, raccoons, turkeys and such that you can almost always find lying beside the roadway because drivers just did not see them in time.  It is a long, dark and eerie road.

One morning I was heading out to the gym.  It was 4:30 a.m.  It was dark and cold and foggy.  So I said a quick prayer for a safe journey down this road (the last thing I wanted was a collision with an unsuspecting animal,) and I set off.

Picture it:

I am driving in the dark, around these curves with absolutely no human presence in sight.  “What if I have a flat tire? Or hit a deer?  There is no one out here to help me.” I thought to myself.  But after a while, I saw some taillights in the distance, go around one of the curves.  “Wonderful, maybe at least if I leave the road that person up ahead will see me. ”  It was a comfort to know I wasn’t alone out there.

But as I drew closer to the vehicle, my comfort turned into concern.  You see, if there has ever been a serial killer’s vehicle, THIS WAS IT!  It was a beaten up, old white van.  It had no windows (perfect for concealing screaming victims.)  It was driving conspicuously slowly.  It had a skull and crossbones on the back door.  If there was ever a sign that danger was afoot, this was it.

Now I am the first to admit that I watch way too much Criminal Minds.  And maybe I let that color the way I see the world.  So I talked myself out of this growing sense of fear that was welling up inside me.  “Lana, you idiot, that is not a serial killer in front of you.  It is just an ordinary person who happens to drive a scary van.  Besides, you are locked in your car.  What could possibly happen to you?”

I am sure by now you all are thinking about how crazy I am, talking to myself as I am driving down the road.  I have this overactive imagination and I could only see the worst-case scenario.  Who thinks that way?  Then it happened.

Right in the middle of this long, dark, deserted road the van stopped.  A very large and scary man got out and began walking toward my car!  And, if there has ever been a model serial killer, HE WAS IT!  He was big, wearing a leather jacket with the sleeves cut out of it, and tattoos covered what skin I could see.  He looked just like that guy from Breaking Bad, you know, shaved head, goatee and all. He was purposeful in his walk and definitely had a mission.

What was I going to do?  My car was somewhat blocked in by his van, and there was really no way to back up.  So as he approached me, I realized in an instant what needed to happen.  I had to run over him.  Pure and simple.  What choice did I have?  I couldn’t have my family finding my abandoned vehicle on the side of the road, wondering forever what happened to mom.  I couldn’t allow this obviously twisted individual to continue his reign of terror on unsuspecting women.  So I took a breath, put my car in gear and got ready to roll.

By the time I made this decision, he was standing directly in front of me.  “Good.” I thought.  “Now I won’t have to chase him down.  This will be easy.”  But he began motioning and yelling at me to roll down my window.

“No way.  Get out away from my car or I am going to run over you!” I yelled back.  He continued to yell for me to roll down my window because he needed directions.   Yeah, right.  We were in the middle of nowhere.  There was nothing out here to get directions to.  I continued to yell back, “Forget it” and rev my engine.  It was pretty surreal having this ongoing conversation, the serial killer and me. Back and forth with neither of us budging.  The clocking ticking down until I took this guy out.

Then something dawned on me. I was still safe in my car.  He hadn’t come any closer.  He didn’t appear to be holding a weapon.  So I took a chance and yelled, “What are you looking for?”

“The race track.”  he replied.  Oh, the race track.  Yes, there is a race track at the very end of this road in the opposite direction.  So I yelled “Turn around and keep going until you run into it.”  But I did not roll down my window. For all I know, he is a killer that like to race cars.

He seemed to realize that this was all he was going to get out of me, so he gave up and walked back to his van, calling me crazy as he went.  I drove on to the gym, parked directly under a light post and ran inside. All the while I was thanking God that I didn’t have to kill somebody on my way to work out.   That was the end of my encounter with sure death.

I can laugh about that event now, even though it was very scary at the time.  But it brings to life a deep truth for most of us.  We all will encounter scary things in this life, either real or imagined.  We all will have times in which we honestly don’t know what to do or where to go, for we fear what is standing right in front of us.  We fear the outcome of our decisions.  We fear being trapped and unable to help ourselves.

I am sharing today a gracious gift of God, in the form of Psalm 91.  It hangs in my children’s room.  It is the first psalm I have taught them.  We read it anytime any of us is scared.  It has become a reminder of our Rock and our Fortress, and our Protector that never fails.

I share it today because I know many of us are dealing with scary things right now.  Be strengthened friends, our God loves you and will never forsake you.

Peace,

Psalm 91
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

“I Do Not Make Resolutions…”

“Taking care of yourself means taking care of more than just yourself.”  Matthew McConaughey

92% of all New Years resolutions fail before February.  Therefore, I do not make resolutions.  Why set myself up for disappointment?  And I fully admit that I am not capable of climbing into that top 8%, no matter how high my determination level is.  I normally lose steam about the time the rest of the country does.

I do, however, believe in God’s ability to create lasting change in me for the better.  The big word for this process is “sanctification.”  Sanctification is a word that most Methodists are very familiar with, being that it is a huge part of our theology.  Sanctification is the ongoing process God uses to produce lasting change in us – conforming us more and more to the image of Christ.  Slowly but surely, He works through the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, our attitudes, our behaviors and our thoughts to be more like Jesus.

So instead of making resolutions that I labor under with my own power, I simply ask God what changes He would like to make in me, and then I ask Him to strengthen and encourage me through the process.   Such was the case this time 12 months ago.

After a long period of prayer, reading, and asking God what He wanted to see change in my life, I received my answer.  REST.  Strange answer isn’t it?

“Are you sure, Lord?”

“You know I am on fire for You, isn’t there something epic you want me to run and do in your holy name?”

“But I have this free time on my hands on Tuesday afternoons from 1:45 until 2:30, and I know I can get so much accomplished if I just wedge it in there tight enough…”

But the answer kept coming back: REST.  BE STILL.  LIE DOWN (AND DON’T GET UP UNTIL I TELL YOU TO!) BE AT PEACE.

As crazy as it sounds, rest was a struggle for me to comprehend.  Probably like you, my life is so busy and there is always something else demanding my attention – the thought of just stopping didn’t even make sense.  But I have learned to trust God especially when He doesn’t make sense.  I have come to realize in those times that He is seeing something that I am not.  He is my Good Shepherd.  Whereas I see danger once I am neck deep in it, He sees it from a distance and tries to steer me in another direction.

So for the last year, I have rested.  I have gone to bed at a decent hour (even if the dishes weren’t done.) I began taking yoga classes and long walks.  I have said “NO” to everything in my life that was not absolutely necessary (sorry classroom mothers.) And I have stopped worrying about all those things that I wasn’t doing, and something amazing happened: I was able to live in the present so much more.

In the last year, I have been so much more calm and relaxed.  My blood pressure has decreased.  My energy and focus has renewed.  I am happier.

And even more so, those that depend on me are having a better experience.  I have a handful of people in my life that can’t replace me.  My kids, my beloved – they need me to function at the highest level possible.  Like Matthew said, I have come to realize that taking care of myself has a huge impact on how I take care of others.  I am better, stronger, and more available to the people that need me most.  Looking back, I wonder about the path that I was on.  How long could I have lasted without significant burnout and damage being done to my soul and my relationships?  What was it that God saw in my future that He was desperate to lead me away from?

In a world that tells moms it is selfish to do things for ourselves, I am glad that I follow a Shepherd who leads me into the truth.  When you think about it, the gospels are full of stories about Jesus sleeping, withdrawing, praying and resting.  He is not like me, falling victim to my own pride and measuring my success by how much activity I can jam into my weekly calendar.  He knew the secret that in order to physically give your best, you have to be at your best.  And I am thankful that He is teaching me how to do that.

Heavenly Father,

How I thank You for the guidance You provide for my life.  Continue, Lord, to mold me into the best form of myself – that image that most clearly reflects the character of Jesus.  Help me to trust Your plans, and not my own.  Give me wisdom to follow Your lead, and strength to be consistent at it.  And I pray for all those out there struggling under their own power and losing the battle every day – touch them with and over abundance of grace and mercy.  Lead them in the paths that are joyful and light.  Help them to open their hearts to Your divine will, that they might be fulfilled.

In the name of the Good Shepherd I pray,

Amen

 

“Desires…”

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.”  Psalm 37:4

 

As we begin this new year, full of hope and anticipation of what the coming months will bring, I have something wonderful to share with you.  But first, the back story.

In March of 2006, I was participating in one of the best Bible studies on prayer that I have ever seen, Living Prayer, by Maxie Dunnam. I highly recommend it.

This was a 6-week study that taught one how to make prayer a part of your everyday life, something that I had never done.  So I approached the study and its daily homework with a determination to figure out what all this prayer business was about.  I kept a journal throughout that time to record my experiences.

One day in that journey really stayed with me, even after all these years.  The question of the day was this:

“What is the dream of your heart?  What is the one thing you want most, but are afraid to ask even God for?”

I bet each and every one of you have those dreams and desires.  Just like me, maybe there is something that you have always wanted to do that seems so far out of reach that it is impossible.  Those things that you don’t share with anyone else, because they will think you are crazy.

Well, I wrote mine down.  And as improbable as it seemed, I prayed that God would give me the opportunity.  And I waited.

Well, 9 years later friends, this opportunity has come.  I am so excited.  In the year 2015, I am going to get the chance to live out my heart’s desire.  And I am scared to death.

What if I fail?  What if I am not good at this thing I have wanted to do for so long?

It’s ok.  Because God has been with me in this for 10 years.  And whatever comes of it, will be a blessing.

I question why it has taken me so long to get an answer from Him.  I figure it was because He knew I didn’t know what I was doing before and was saving me from a bad experience.  Or maybe, He was waiting until I had learned to listen and trust His leading before He turned me loose.  Either way, I trust His timing and am looking forward to this adventure with Him.

How about you?  What are those dreams and desires that are hidden in your heart?  Those requests you dare not speak because they seem so far-fetched.  Will this be the year that you trust God enough to start seeking Him in these areas of your life?  Imagine the possibilities available to those who wait expectantly on the Lord.

May your every heart’s desire be fulfilled in the months to come, and may your walk with our Heavenly Father become closer, richer and more fulfilling each day.

Peace Friends.

ps.  No.  I will not tell you what my desire is, yet.  Somethings are better left just between God and me.   But I do thank you for your continued prayers on my behalf.