• Posted on December 31, 2011

about the lord’s prayer, part ii

[You can read Part 1 here.]

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven – Simply put, the majority of this year I was paralyzed by fear. I have a tendency (Okay, more than a tendency. What’s a word like “tendency” that means “completely obsessed with”?) to be very black and white. Anyone who knows me will testify to that. This also, not a good thing. I’m so black and white, I often can’t see all the beautiful shades of grace that cover them. Many times I, resultantly, am left with a distorted form of legalism that dictates my every move. The biggest problem with that is when it’s time to make a decision, or, um, not make a decision.

Basically my mindset says, “Okay, if I go this way, I might be disobeying God because of this thing. If I go that way, I could possibly disobey God because of that other thing. If I stay the way I’m headed now, it too might be a level of disobedience.” I was so horribly afraid of disobeying God, I couldn’t move in any direction. And the ultimate fear came in knowing that not moving could too be a disobedience.

See how this could make someone crazy?

Repeatedly God told me to relax. I’ve got Bible story after Bible story I read that affirm how God’s plan is perfect and his power bigger than anything I could ever do. My aunt shared a story recently about another family member who once told her, “I can’t make a mistake.” Not meaning she was perfect, but that nothing she could ever do would ever be a “mistake” in God’s eyes, for he uses all things for his plan whether we perceive them as good or bad.

Maybe this sounds elementary, and writing it, it feels like a “duh” moment. I could tell you stories from last year and the year before when God tried teaching me this same lesson. And I get it for a moment but then it somehow slips away and I’m once again left afraid of doing something wrong.

This too affects not only second-guessing everything I might do but also everything I’ve done. “Was I wrong to do this? Did I hear God right about that? That must have been a wrong move. Now he’s upset with me. Now that door of opportunity is closed because I made that wrong decision.” It feeds back into my fear about the future.

God’s name is holy, we talked about that yesterday. Moreover, he is holy. He is set apart. His is bigger, stronger, better than we give him credit to be. I firmly believe that almost every incorrect perspective we have in life stems from our inability to understand the sheer magnitude of God’s power and the reach of his intricate plan.

Really, when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we acknowledge his will while recognizing that it will be done on earth. It’s not whether or not he can complete his will on earth, but whether or not we will see it, appreciate it, and glorify him as a result.

Give us this day our daily bread – Okay. This is the hard one.

I’d say I’ve literally been praying this prayer for as long as I can remember, probably since Pre-K. And now, 25+ years later I’m finally understanding what it means.

The understanding began a couple years ago with study of the Elijah story and resulted in a raven tattoo this year to signify God’s power in providing for us daily.

I’ve written several times this year about God’s promise to provide for us through this year in a miraculous way. And he’s done it in ways you may or may not believe even if I told you. We’ve always had a house and transportation and clothes and food. And maybe we haven’t had as much as we wanted of some things, but we have never been without. It’s pretty incredible.

I say that knowing that I have never been as constantly stressed about one thing as I have about our finances this year. I literally worried myself sick until I couldn’t sleep and my entire body ached. It hasn’t been pretty. There God was, providing for us day after day, giving us our promised daily bread, and I wanted my yearly bread. I wanted a guarantee that he’d provide for us the following days or weeks, as if remembrance of his past provision wasn’t guarantee enough. Ironically, I was writing a chapter in the book about this very topic while stressing 24/7 about our own daily bread and whether or not God would come through again.

I’m not going to get fully into my security issues, which is what a lot of this stress exposed–that my security was in guaranteed financial stability and not God. That’s the simplified version.

A well-timed devotional recently struck me with one powerful line: “Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down.” How the hell could I be thankful for the issue that caused me more anxiety than I’d ever known? How could I be grateful for constant financial despair? Tons of ways, really, when I really started thinking about it. Here’s a couple:

• Because I am uniquely positioned to see the power of God’s daily provision in a way some people may never know. Because people who have more money see less need for God in some ways or have their eyes closed to the characteristic of God who wants to be the only thing we rely on daily. That doesn’t mean they’re inherently sinning with their money, but they may never see God provide the way we have.

• This should be the most freeing thought and realization yet. For a very long time, I was in a mindset that I had to be the one to care for me. That I had to do the laundry and cook and clean the house. And, later, that I had to get a job to pay for the things I needed. And that if I want things done, I have to do them because no one else will. Of course that turned into a lot of pride, thinking I was the one who brought this money home and I cared for myself and I paid for myself. I will mention I had many loving family members who helped provide and I don’t negate that or take it for granted, but overall I always felt that everything I have I earned.

And now to think, God is showing me that not only can I not do everything and provide everything I need for myself, but he can and, praise God, he will. This is the realization that should make me give up the fight, not in a hopeless, “I quit,” sort of way, but in a hopeful, “I’ll step back and let you do your thing,” sort of way.

I’ll end today with a little snippet from the book, something I wrote months before I actually ever fully grasped it:

“Be happy with what you’ve got. Be thankful for your daily bread rather than desiring your weekly bread or your lifelong bread. Be thankful for the breaths and heartbeats that have sustained you throughout the day rather than desiring perfect health for a lifetime. That we have enough to make it through today is enough for today. We must learn to praise God for meeting every need as it arises. And if he should so choose to bless us with more than we need today, we praise him then, too.”

——-

[Look for Part 3 tomorrow.]

  • Posted on December 30, 2011

about the lord’s prayer, part i

Is the year gone already? That’s a joke, I think. It’s been a long year, a hard year in many ways, and an extremely blessed year in others.

I like things organized, concise, and structured. So as I’ve continuously reflected over “major themes” of the lessons God’s taught me this year, I try to make them as orderly in my mind as I can, as if maybe I can grasp them better if they’re grouped into a pretty little mind map. I like to think God’s got a book of charts on me, time lines and flow charts and bullet points and color-coded themes of life.

I’m willing to bet he doesn’t, but it’d be really cool if he did. Also if he let me peek at them now so I can understand what on earth (or heaven!) he’s doing and why he’s put me in certain situations and etc., ad nauseum.

So then if I had to have a thesis statement for the multitudes of lessons God’s taught me this year, for better or worse, I’d have to say I learned the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer. Er, maybe not “learned,” as in past tense. Maybe more like, “gradually understanding a minute aspect of God’s character, as outlined by the Lord’s Prayer.”

You with me? Basically it looks a little like this:

Our Father, who art in heaven – Here’s the realization he’s driven home several times that almost reduced me to a weeping mess in the middle of multiple church services. God is our Father, we know that, we say that, we overuse that perhaps without realizing the magnitude of it. If we are believers in Christ, God looks at us and sees Jesus. The fancy church terms would say something like righteousness imbued to us. What that means is when he says, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased,” that’s us too. He is “well pleased” with us, not because of anything we’ve done but because of the grace and faith he’s given us to follow him.

(God’s Fatherly characteristics are dramatically more in-depth than that, but this is specifically the lessons he’s revealed to me this year.)

Hallowed be thy name – My NLT Bible translates this as, “may your name be kept holy.” The word “holy” is a constant lesson God’s been teaching me for years, and he continues to show me more. Was it Cheez-its that had the commercial about how they get all the cheese flavor into one little cracker? That’s what the word “holy” means to me. Not a Cheez-it or other delicious snack cracker, but so full of meaning you have to stop and think, “Wow, how did God get so much meaning into that one little word?”

The name of God, and Jesus as well, is relatively meaningless to most of our current society. At best it’s a slogan on a bumper sticker or a clever SNL skit and at its worst it’s a casual expletive or a well-publicized mockery for personal gain. Several events of the past few months have really got my attention about the way we all view the very names of God and Jesus. I’m tempted to go on a rant here about people’s Christmas soapboxes, but I’ll refrain.

Earlier this year I was plagued with a question for which I still have no answer: “What can I do to help restore the name of God and Jesus in our nation?” I repented for any time I’ve taken his name or his character for granted or exploited my faith for personal gain.

This too includes a wariness to ever publicly announce, “God told me to do such-and-such.” I mean, he does, and I wouldn’t be where I am right now if he didn’t. At the same time, that’s a bold statement and, upon making it, we must be sure God truly is telling us this thing. Furthermore, we must be prepared that whatever the such-and-such is, it may not result the way we expect it to result. Jonah, for example. He got pretty pissed off when God didn’t destroy Ninevah as he’d said, ignoring the bigger, more beautiful picture of the over 120,000 people who repented and returned to God as a result of his prophecy.

Thy Kingdom come – This one was a double-edged sword I regularly used on myself, and not in a good way. I know I’m not alone in this because I’ve heard several others express similar feelings. As believers, we gradually understand more about the temporal aspect of this world and the eternity of the coming world. The idea of a place with no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more separation from God is so appealing we tend to obsess over it.

I literally began praying for God to just come soon, just come soon and end all this suffering. One year, two years ago, I was begging God not to come soon so all my beloved, unbeliever friends would have time to follow him. And this year I was so overcome with despair and discouragement, I just wanted to be done with this world. I’m weary of it. And instead of finding my strength in God everyday, I prayed for him to just come soon. Yes, this is a bad perspective. When we’re told to pray for God’s Kingdom to come soon, I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant.

Then God hit me over and over again with this one vital lesson: be a good steward. Of everything.

That day, the day we all get to celebrate with God in heaven and a new earth, that day will come soon enough. Where we are now is a unique opportunity to bring more people to Jesus, to show Christlike love, and to minister in a way we can’t do in heaven. We shouldn’t spend our lives biding our time until we get to heaven, but learning to be the most obedient, most Christlike people we can. We must be good stewards of every moment, every relationship, and every opportunity while we can.

We must find the balance between looking forward with excitement to our eternal life without neglecting the stewardship of the opportunities we have in this life.

——-

[So I wrote a lot more than I expected, of course. Part 2 will be up tomorrow.]

  • Posted on December 24, 2011

about oxfam america

Gift²
(For more information on the Gift² project, click here.)

ORGANIZATION: Oxfam America

PERFECT FOR: Gifts and stocking stuffers for everyone left on your list, especially if you’ve put it off this long

COST: $12 – $5000

WHAT YOU GET: Nothing tangible from the website, save a card that will come in the mail later or I believe the option to print off confirmation of your purchase

WHAT YOU GIVE: Lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice

BOASTS: Oxfam America works in 90 countries around the world as a part of Oxfam International. The easiest way to see some of the impressive boasts of Oxfam is to go to their website and under the “Explore our Work” section you can filter their accomplishments by Emergency, Issue, Campaign, or Region.

MY PICK: A song, paired with an iTunes gift card or Soap, paired with a Bath & Body Works soap

LEGITIMACY: Oxfam America is a BBB accredited charity, monitored by the Charity Navigator, and of course, a registered 501c3.

MORE DETAILS: Okay, it’s Christmas Eve, so at this point, what else are you going to do? Go online, buy something for someone who actually needs a gift this year, and then run out to the nearest convenience store or grocery store to find a related item. It’s way better than whatever else you had planned and probably a lot more meaningful.

CONTACT INFO: Click here to go to the store. Click here to go to the main site.

  • Posted on December 23, 2011

about feeding america

Gift²
(For more information on the Gift² project, click here.)

ORGANIZATION: Feeding America

PERFECT FOR: Gifts of food for the hungry, paired with snacks for your gift recipient

COST: $12+ along with whatever you may want to pair it with from the grocery store

WHAT YOU GET: Nothing tangible from the site itself, unless you print off a gift donation or have an honor card sent to the gift recipient

WHAT YOU GIVE: Food for the hungry in America

BOASTS: Feeding America supplies food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors

MY PICK: Breakfast for a Child for 1 Year, paired with a box of your gift recipient’s favorite cereal (or get really creative and include a bowl, a spoon, and a little container of milk)

LEGITIMACY: Feeding America is a BBB accredited charity and a registered 501c3

MORE DETAILS: This is one of my very favorite gift ideas, especially for all you last-minute shoppers. Give online, print off a copy of the gift, and then run by the grocery store and pick up a related food item. Wrap it all up and tell your recipient that not only does s/he benefit from the instant gratification of the food item, but someone else can benefit from a long-term investment of food.

CONTACT INFO: Click here to go to the gift catalog. Click here to go to the main site.

  • Posted on December 22, 2011

about world wildlife fund

Gift²
(For more information on the Gift² project, click here.)

ORGANIZATION: World Wildlife Fund

PERFECT FOR: Gifts of adoption kits for the good-hearted animal lovers on your list; stocking stuffers of Gift Adoption Cards

COST: $25 – $100 and up, depending on your desired donation amount

WHAT YOU GET: Mostly adoption kits with related plush and adoption certificate, some apparel and gift items

WHAT YOU GIVE: Conservation of nature and endangered animals and reduction of the pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth

BOASTS: WWF has been operating for 50 years and is now in 100 countries, supported by five million members worldwide. $.85 of every dollar donated in the WWF store goes toward conservation.

MY PICK: Medium Jute Bag or, of course, the Sea Otter Adoption Kit or River Otter Adoption Kit or anything else to do with otters ever

LEGITIMACY: World Wildlife Fund is definitely a BBB accredited charity and a registered 501c3 and is monitored by Charity Navigator.

MORE DETAILS: At this point just about anything you buy won’t get here in time for Christmas, but you still have adoption-type gifts like the ones the WWF offers. You can buy an adoption kit and let the person know the accompanying stuffed animal or gift is coming in the mail. Or just pair a gift card with a stuffed plush from Wal-Mart or an animal toy or book or coloring book or just about anything creative and animal-esque.

CONTACT INFO: Click here to go straight to the store. Click here to go to the main site.