Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's Not All About Me

I have recently come to the conclusion that it really is not all about me. It is not even all about my kids, my family, my friends. The story of my life is just a part of a larger story that God is telling. I am not even a plot point in the movie God is making. He is the author, the director, definitely the producer. I am an extra. I am in the background of the scenes at times, lending to the flavor of the story, but I am not the story. It is not all about me. And I find this immensely comforting.

Maybe I should be all upset that the world does not revolve around me; that I am not the integral part of even my own life story. But I am not. I am relieved. It takes a lot of the pressure off of me to make my life meaningful, fulfilling, exciting, movie worthy. I like seeing my life as part of God's bigger story, His story of love, sacrifice and redemption.

This does not mean that I don't think I am important to God because I know that I am. I know that God loves me personally, just like I know that He loves my kids more than I ever could. I know that He has a plan for my life, a plan that grows me closer to Him, and hopefully is a part of the telling of His story. I know that he cares what job I take, who I marry, how many kids to have and even what road I take when I drive to the library. I know because I have a friend who was in a horrible car accident while driving her kids to the library to return some books. Her oldest daughter went home to Jesus and she has had to deal with the after effects of a traumatic brain injury ever since. God cares about the big details in our lives and what seem to be little details to us such as which way we take to get to the library.

I think we often think of God in human terms. How can he keep track of all of us, all our needs, our thoughts, our desires. There are a lot of people in this world, even if you only count believers, which is assuming he only cares about the believers. But we are thinking of God in our terms and we have trouble remembering to buy eggs and milk we when go into the store, but we always come out with those cookies we really like. I think God is more like Google. There are how many millions of websites out there that Google somehow in its greatness figures out what matches my needs when I do a search. God is even bigger and better than Google. He works in ways that our minds cannot comprehend. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. He is focused on the bigger story, keeping all the actors, cameramen, grips and costume designers on task. But while doing that he is also completely intuned to my life, my experiences, my hearts desires.

God is way bigger than I could ever imagine. So why would I not take great comfort in knowing that He is in charge, telling a bigger story with our lives, than we could ever tell on our own.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sinful Nature? Who me?

Last week my dear husband picked up my boys' favorite hamburger Happy Meals at McDonalds for dinner. These are also our favorites because our McDonalds has $1.25 Happy Meals on Tuesdays and it was Tuesday. What could be better. Happy Meals for the kids and cheap eats for us that don't involve me cooking. Win-win-win.

Everyone was eagerly awaiting their treat and more importantly the toy that comes in the box. They were sitting patiently at the table when he came in and started handing out the boxes. Since all three meals are the exact same on Tuesdays there was no need to figure out what belongs to whom. At least that is what he thought. Until the tears started. The little boys were so excited to see a Bakugan ball in their respective Happy Meal boxes. Unfortunately there had been a mix up at the McDonalds drive thru and Hockey Boy somehow ended up with the "girl" box that had a little Build a Bear stuffed animal inside. Oh the tears. The injustice. The wailing. How could we do something so awful to him? My response, "Just chill out." Here switch with Little One who really is too little for a Bakugan ball. At least that is what I tell Little One because I am already annoyed with him for not being willing to use the toilet when he is perfectly capable. "If you are not wearing big boy pants then you are not big enough for the big boy toy." Makes sense to me. More tears. And the agitation starts to build in me. Seriously folks how can my dear husband not know to check the boxes before he starts handing them out? How did he let this happen? I glare at him. "Rookie Mistake" I say.

I cannot believe how annoyed I got over something that was easily fixed. Especially considering the next time I went to McDonalds, Little One was thrilled with his new stuffed animal. Oops, I had been hoping he would want to be a big boy and start using the toilet. I was totally taken over by alien invaders at that moment. I did not spew green filth or anything but I felt like my body was being taken over by mean lady. The woman who sometimes shows up and snaps for no reason. The woman who suddenly gets annoyed by Little One for asking the same question one too many times. The woman who seems so lovely most of the time and then wham, for about a week once a month, feels overwhelmed, easily agitated and sad for no reason.

Turns out it was hormones. Those little pesky whatever they are that change my body and my mood once a month... at least for now and I can only imagine how alien I will feel when the big Change happens. And this month for the very first time I came to a new realization about hormones.

Whenever people talk about our sinful nature I always feel a bit funny because as a sinner saved by grace I like to think of myself as changed and filled with the Holy Spirit. And while I know I have a sinful nature and see my own depravity quite regularly, the sinful nature thing confused me. I started thinking about the consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve and how Adam would toil the earth and Eve would experience the pain of childbirth, which I have experienced with and without drugs and it is PAINFUL! But the pain of childbirth also includes all those parts of our womanhood that make childbirth possible and that includes those pesky hormones. And I realized that my hormones are one very tangible example of my sinful nature. So I can no longer just chalk up my nastiness to hormones as an excuse. Instead it is a painful reminder of how much I need my Savior; an opportunity to rise above my sinful nature with God's help.

Of course that is easy to write sitting on this side of the month. We'll see how well I am doing in a few weeks. And don't get me started on why I am expected to toil the earth when I have to endure the pain of childbirth.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mary or Martha?

Are you a Mary? or a Martha?

I hear this a lot in church ministry circles. Especially when someone who has been serving for a long time is starting to feel overwhelmed. It usually involves them saying something along the lines of "I just want to sit and be fed for a while." And then someone usually comes along side and references the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38 - 42

The helpful person usually says, "Maybe it is time for you to be Mary for a while." Which would make complete sense if Jesus was actually in the room. Of course we should be sitting at his feet. We should be making time in our day to be in the presence of God, in His Word. I think though that we often use this story as an excuse to take a break and be fed. And while breaks are important (God rested on the 7th Day), I think we have to be careful in how we interpret this scripture.

No where in the passage does Jesus say that Mary should rest or that Martha should not be making preparations. What he says is, "Only one thing is needed." If we take Mary as a person who took time to sit and listen to the teacher, who rested and was fed, then is that the one thing that is needed? To sit and listen? I don't think so. Every time Jesus mentions what we need, he is referencing our need for a Savior, for His redemption. Mary was choosing to listen to Jesus, to be in His presence. She was getting spiritually fed by the Lord. She was spending time with her Savior, with Jesus Christ, God's son. I can imagine though when he was done teaching in her house, she got up and went back to work.

I don't think we are called to either a Mary OR a Martha. I think instead we are to learn two important lessons from this story. First we need to have our priorities straight - only one thing is needed - Jesus. And second, don't let our work, distract from this. But this story is not an excuse to live quiet lives of solitude and contemplation, allowing others to do the work of serving the church, loving our neighbors and spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. We need to be using our gifts and talents to glorify God. We need to be participating in His work. We need to do this with our priorities in place, with our hearts turned towards God, our mind being fed by His Word.

So let's not give up on serving when we get tired. Let's find very real places of rest, Sabbath, in our lives. Let's find wise counsel, teachers and friends who can help us grow spiritually. Let's spend real time in God's word and in prayer which always feeds me and gives me strength and energy. And then let's work. Let's serve. Let's love through our actions.

I want to be a Martha, who serves the real needs of God's people because I have also spent part of my day as a Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Whole Story

This summer we took the kids to Disneyland. Long story but we had Disney passes last year when we lived in the Bay area and this was Hockey Boy’s 5th trip to Disneyland this year. The first four times we went he was not interested at all in the activity where the kids get to learn how to be a Jedi knight and fight Darth Vader with lightsabers. This last visit, he not only wanted to watch, but he was really excited to do the lesson and fight Vader. So when we got home, we decided, the older boys were ready to watch the original Star Wars movie. So one Saturday a few weeks ago we took them to Target to pick up the movie. I grabbed Star Wars IV which is the original movie from the 1970s and the real Star Wars I for the purists. The boys were terribly concerned that I had grabbed the wrong movie since they saw Star Wars I – III right there in line before Star Wars IV. And they like to do things in order. I had to explain to them the whole, movies 4, 5 6 came first and then you see 1, 2, 3. Not sure they totally got it but it was important to us that they see them in the same order we saw them. Because all 6 movies work together to tell a bigger story. Also, Episodes 1, 2 and 3 are way too scary and graphic for my kids at this point. Special effects really improved over the years.

The Bible is also ONE story made up of many episodes. Often we see the God of the Old Testament as just and the God of the New Testament as merciful, the God of the Old Testament is all about rules and regulations while the God of the New Testament is all about Grace. But the truth is that God is unchanging. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God in the New Testament. What changed with Christ’s death and resurrection was how we are able to relate to God. We can now stand boldly at the feet of God, knowing that when he sees us, he sees Christ in us, making us clean and holy. Christ’s death and resurrection redeemed us but he was not changed. God’s working in the world through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is different over time, but God does not change. And as you can see in Acts 5, God still can dole out justice by striking down a “follower.” He did not change from Malachi to Matthew.

I think we often like to think of the Old Testament God as different from the New Testament God because we like to focus on God's grace, God's love. The Old Testament involves a lot of stories of God's judgment and we don't like to think about that part of God. We don't like to think about how unworthy we are in our natural, sinful states. But if we think of God as either only judging or only merciful, we are missing His Wholeness, His story. Yes, He will judge, but he loves us so much that He provided a redeemer, He provided grace. We are no longer unworthy, but are instead His children, highly valued and eternally loved. What could be better!