Saturday, October 18, 2014

He Did It For Us

I am up early this morning.  Combination of jet lag and a busy week for the girls (we were all asleep by 7:45 pm last night) made a 5 am wake up pretty appealing.  It's quiet, which is something you don't get a lot when on a whirlwind trip to Abu Dhabi with your awesome husband (a post coming about that later).  Between the parties, the travel, the tours, the eating (oh so much eating), Jesus and I had only sparing time to meet.

I've been unplugged from praying for people too; it was nice to get back to that.  I had a few folks on my heart, including a couple of families struggling with major health issues (adult cancer, pediatric cancer and a mystery illness).  It can be hard to pray for people whose loved ones are sick.  I know this season very well, but that doesn't make it easy to know what to ask God for on their behalf, and on top of that, be original.

Because that's what I feel like I have to do when I sit down to pray.  I have to be different, I can't just be asking for the same things all the time.

I hope the Lord finds that statement funny.  I find it scandalous and prideful as if there is something wrong with praying the same thing all the time.  I mean, c'mon!  Look at the Lord's Prayer.  I'm hoping His grace is enough to cover my obvious need to feel original.  I know He forgives me as I confess my arrogance. 

Still He took the opportunity to reset my thinking.  I began this week reading through Romans (again), which I admit I find difficult.  It is the most challenging thing I've ever read, not only from a heart perspective, but to wrap my head around.  It's hard stuff, so I have to think the Church in Rome must have spent years pouring over this letter, trying to determine how what Paul was saying applied to them and their world.

It's a layers thing - there are so many.  It's easy to apply Romans to a culture, but what happens when you start using it as a way to filter your own thoughts?

So the mental sifting began this morning in Chapter 4.  It was the question of what faith is that confronted me.  This is the chapter Paul strips back the age old Jewish claim to be the people of Abraham, demonstrating Abraham was a man of God, by faith.  His point was to show it is by faith in Jesus we gain our identity, not association with Abraham or anyone else.  Why?  Because Abraham himself was only righteous by his faith in God, or as the Amplified Version states:

No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promse of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God.  Fully satified and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He promised.  That is why his faith was credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God).  (Rom 4:20-22)

The word I like in there is: grew.  Clearly, this was not a one-stop-shop of faith, have it once and you are good to go.  It is a process of maturation, of being made more secure in our trust of Christ.  It is trust and trust develops over time.  I don't compare the faith I had as a new believer versus the faith I have now; just as I don't compare how well I walked as a toddler to how well I walk now (although that may not be the best example in my case, as much as I fall down),

We, in the Church, make the most grievous of errors when we tell people, especially those suffering with illness (physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional), all they need to do to get better is have more faith.  That is the worst burden you can put on someone.  You might as well put a bullet in their head.

(I'm trying to be overly-dramatic.  Yet, when we tell someone who is sick or has a loved one sick, they just need to pray more, believe better, read their Bible more, we crush them; squashing what faith they may have.  It is also blatantly untrue.  Jesus never said that, so we shouldn't either.  It is not doing for God that is required, it is resting in the trust of a good God which makes our faith possible.)

Quantity of faith has nothing to do with it; this is not a quantitative issue.  It's qualitative.  That's what Paul was saying.  He points us back to the fundamental truth of Christianity:IT IS NOT ABOUT US.

The quality of who we have faith in and trust is what matters.  That's what Paul outlines towards the end of Chapter 4, in verses 24-25, again in the Amplified.  He writes,

Righteousness, standing acceptable to God will be granted and credited to us...who believe in trust in, adhere to, and rely on God, Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification (our acquittal), [making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God.]

Jesus didn't do what He did on Calvary for Himself.  He didn't need salvation or redemption.  We did.  He did it for us.  He did it so we could be reconciled to God, Our Father, Creator.  He did it so we could have Him living on the inside, being taught and comforted by the Holy Spirit.  Our faith does not come from what we do but what He already did.  Nothing more is required, accept only to pursue and live for that truth; and to be fostered in the love of that Greatest of Deeds.  His death for us makes faith and all the other promises of God possible.

My prayer for my friends is simply that, like I saw written in the dust at Ferrari World this past week, they would know and grow in their knowledge that Jesus loves them. 

Not they would believe harder or try hard or "weaken in faith when they consider the utter impotence of their bodies" (Rom 4:19) but be given the eyes to see all God is at work doing in their lives, so they will grow in their trust, their faith and their praise of Him who raised Christ from the dead.

I pray we will all grow in our ability to bear witness to what Christ did for us, and what He is currently doing. Look for God, friends.  He is busy, at work for the best things in your life.  Don't settle for what you can see, or what you know.  Don't settle at all, but keep striving in the most excellent way, the way of peace as the Holy Spirit mends your life from broken to whole and full to the brim.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gracious Humility

I have a problem.  It's not a new problem but it came back up before my eyes last night. 

I was at a prayer meeting at my church and at the end, they prayed over Dave and I, as we are going to Abu Dhabi Saturday - Friday of next week.  We are going for his work, for a conference.  Well, he is going for work, I'm tagging along.  (The clincher was a day in Paris on the way there!)  I've already worked through all my issues with leaving the girls, going to the Middle East as a woman with a Cross tattoo on her ankle at this time in history when that part of the world is (greatly)

I am not afraid of going, I know it will be a unusual and wonderful experience.  I know I'm coming back and I know my parents and in-laws will take more preferable care of my kids (my kids prefer their kind of care anyways....grandparents are always more fun.)  I know I will be safe while I'm there and the Lord will show me the work He has for me there.

(Especially is that work is to rest and enjoy time away/alone with my husband.)

This trip is a blessing to go on, it's a blessing we can take it.

No, my problem runs much deeper than that.  Last night, before they prayed for our trip, a friend of mine got emotional about me not being around this next week.  She told me she would miss me (everyone there said the same, actually), she got teared up because of what my presence means to her. 

I did what I usually do when people say things like that, I make a face and mentally write it off.  After all, I know who I am and for her to think I'm indispensable in any way is just ludicrous.  A thousand other people could take my place.  I'm not special, I'm not at all.

After she finished, another friend jumped in and reproved me.  He saw my body language, he understood my face.  He did the right thing because to have an attitude that says, No, No, you are wrong.  I'm worthless, I know it and you should too, is not good for the people of God.

This morning, I sat down and asked the Lord to show me His love.  He said,

I already did.  Last night, in Johanne's face, her words, her tears.  I did in Christian's words.  You had a hard time accepting it then, are you going to have a hard time accepting it from me now?

My honest answer is Yes.  I'm a warrior, I'm a fighter.  I'm pretty good at love in my own family, I know I'm important to them.  Among my close friends, I know our relationship is valuable and my value in that.  But among the larger world, being humbly gracious is not something I identify with.

I'd rather put on an air of false humility, which is really just self-loathing.  It's like not being able to accept a compliment about a new dress ("Oh, this old thing!") but at a much deeper level.  I struggle with accepting a compliment about myself.  Not only that, what she was praising was really the work The Lord has done in me.  So, to go even farther, I have a hard time accepting a compliment about the Jesus in me.

My prayer this morning was simple: Lord, please teach me, not only to be humble, but graciously humble; Your kind of humble.  No false humility or self-loathing (which is just the other side of arrogance.)  Teach me to be pleased in and about You and thankful for the work you've done in me.  Warm up this stony section of my heart, break up the ice in there so when people love on me, I can receive it with joy.

Easier said than done, but there's a verse for that.  As I was sitting down to write this, a verse came to mind: But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

The Apostle James goes on, in that chapter, to talk about what it means to be humble.  It's not face down in the dirt, letting people walk all over you.  It is knowing your position before God and letting Him determine not only the way you walk, but also the manner in which you walk.

I need more grace and I need more humility.  Lord, mix the two in the blender and pour it into me with an extra shot of grace in there, please!  I know this will help me better receive Your love too.  Help me, Father, Brother and Friend.  I'll be careful to give you all the praise for it.  

In Jesus Name, 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Natalie: Year 11 - Birthday Poem

I meant to write a poem for Natalie when she turned 10.  I finally got around to it.  Pretty familiar Wakefield family tradition - poems on milestones.  Better late than never and she got to read it just after having breakfast in bed (a relatively new Vogel family tradition).  For the rest of her birthday - day, she is going to have treats at school.  Then we are going to a mac-and-cheese only restaurant with my family.  Perfect for my girl.  She will get to celebrate with Dave's family in a couple of weeks.

To the left, she is in the middle of all the before-school birthday festivities, with her new rip-stick. (To the right is the gratuitous picture with Toddler, who kept photo-bombing the other shots.)  What a treat she is!  Love this girl so much......
God's mercy to me is plain
All over your beautiful face.
I look at it and all I can do is
Thank Him for this every day grace.

Your prayers are always answered.
Your jokes (almost) always funny.
Your brain is constantly working,
But it's your unceasing kindness that is sweeter than honey.

Eleven years have flown by.
One day never like the last.
And I know someday that today,
Will seem like a long time in the past.

But for the moment, I want to treasure that,
Everything is still new and exciting for you.
Even your Mac-And-Cheese obsession leads us
To try something new.

Soon, you will be all grown.
A woman in your own right.
When you’ve moved away,
I will miss tucking you in at night.

You’ve taught me how to be a Mom.
You are teaching me, still.
You challenge me to be better.
It’s not a burden, it’s a thrill.

Daddy and I are so proud of you;
It’s tough to think you’ll be soon off on your own.
Even though we want to see what’s next,
We regret it will eventually involve a phone.  (Not today though.)

Always remember I love you,
I am the one who loves you best.
Spread your wings and fly, little bird,
Just always come back to the nest.