I have a confession to make. It might make you shake your head in wonder about me, but here it goes… I love American Idol. I can’t help it. Something about it draws me in every single season. Each year I find myself sitting on the couch watching the crowds of thousands gather to audition in hopes of making it through to the next round. I’m watching the end of the first auditions, and my math brain gets the better of me. Out of thousands, maybe even one hundred thousand people, only twenty-four will be chosen to compete. The percentage is low… really, really low. So many leave heartbroken over not getting a chance to be famous. And so begins the question, “what makes a person famous in the first place?”
Around these parts when it comes to kids, I’m known as Mrs. Stacy. My husband laughs because there are times when we go into a local store and you hear a child say my name. He calls himself Mrs. Stacy’s husband and I respond in Miranda Lambert fashion, “Hey, everybody dies famous in a small town.” All those thousands striving to become the American Idol and I wonder. Do they realize a big stage and fans screaming do not make you famous?
To me famous describes the one I graduated high school with who took a few wrong turns and now sings in a local church about freedom. Its the coach who lines up the fleet on Wednesdays and gives his time to the the kids in our community. It’s the woman who lost her husband to cancer this year, and now fights the same battle herself with a grace that leaves me blessed each time I see her.
This little town tucked under tall pines has the most famous people I know. Nurses in emergency rooms whose compassion provides strength when your friend’s dad has passed away. The children’s librarian who travels around reading books to toddlers. The biology teacher who taught me what I needed to know to make it through college. Moms rising early to prepare lunches for school children complete with napkin notes. Husbands and sons that give up Saturday time to build garden beds because this momma likes to play in the dirt.
The one who cleans church toilets and sweeps glitter… the grandmother holding the hand of the child she brings to church every Sunday… hands preparing meals for those who can’t… hard working dads… writers of encouraging notes… prayer warriors circling church parking lots… smiling greeters at Walmart… bible study leaders… the school counselor who knows no stranger. This is what I call famous. These are American Idols who stand under The Light of the World… embracing each day as a stage to stand on and declare His love.
This kind of fame is no low percentage chance. Its one drama where we all have a part to play. There is no audition or question whether we’ll make it. In Christ, we’ve already made the cut. No, we won’t be perfect and some notes will fall flat. Perfection or fame is not what Jesus asks from us. He achieved perfection so we don’t have to. His requirements are summed up in two simple statements.
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”–Matthew 22:37-40 The Message
Loving God and loving others. Now that’s our ticket to fame!
By the way, I did actually sit in the same room with a famous person yesterday for the first time ever. He sang a beautiful song that brought tears to many. And me, well I didn’t even have the guts to ask for an autograph.
My desire to read the entire bible, every word, cover to cover has me on a new journey. Sometimes sitting and reading can be difficult with my schedule so I listen as this handy app I have reads to me. This week I find myself in Exodus. I’ve read this story, studied it, told it to three year olds, and watched the classic movie many times. Listening to it has given me new insight. Here’s my top three from Moses this week.
1. This place I’m in is just a camping ground, a part of the journey. If you back up before Moses moves into the picture you see why God’s people are slaves in Egypt. Its the story of Joseph. Through him God saved His people from the famine and brought them to a new land. Moving to Egypt meant survival and Joseph made it happen. Joseph saved Egypt and his people. He was famous, the closest person to Pharoah. As long as there was someone to remember this, all was well. But, years went by… people died… Pharoahs changed and Joseph was forgotten. Once this happened the Egyptians enslaved God’s people. Like slaves in a foreign land, I need to remember where I’m going. Whatever circumstance I face, good or bad, is not the end. Time keeps marching on, memories fade, all to keep me moving towards home.
2. God never breaks a promise. Almost twenty years ago, before we expanded the square footage of this house, we sat quiet on the sofa. The oldest was four, the middle a few months old, and we sat considering this fork in the road. In the short term one direction would solve a lot of issues… the other would be much more difficult. I sensed God’s leading, heard Him promise us His way was best, and somehow got the courage to speak it out loud. I’m not sure why my hubby believed me that day, but the relief of making a decision fell on us as we determined to take the difficult path. This work my husband does is quite the roller coaster, and honestly its been on a down hill turn for a while. I’m sure the Israelite slaves must have felt the same way. God’s promise to Abraham was made hundreds of years ago. Maybe He changed His mind… maybe He forgot… maybe it was all just a good story. There in the desert a burning bush speaks to the homicidal shepherd and reminds him of the promise. It is so easy to forget what God promises when you’re stuck in the muck of a season. You consider all the choices, wonder about your decisions and somehow in the midst of all the clamoring you have this burning bush moment. Right there in the kitchen’s morning light over pouring coffee into my mug I hear… circumstances never change the promises I’ve made to you. Well there you go! Throw your hands up and yell praise because God never breaks a promise and He’s not about to start now.
3. Praying moves God to action. There at the burning bush Moses and God have a talk. Twice God explains He has heard the cry of His people. Have you ever thought about it as you read this? We see it from this side understanding the entire story. Moses and the people didn’t. They were miserable and it drove them to pray. God came up with a deliverance plan and set it into action. From the beginning things just got worse for everyone. I may can tell the entire story of the plagues in fifteen minutes but my friend recently told me it took around 18 months. Sometimes we imagine this story as a nice little sitcom all wrapped up with a happy ending in thirty minutes but that’s not the way it happened. It is not the way it happens with us either.
Like the slaves I find myself praying. Some things I’ve been praying for years… decades even. There are times I think those areas I’m praying for might just be getting worse. I’ve gotten frustrated when there seems to be no change. I’ve wanted to throw my hands up and walk away in defeat. It would have been nice to have the answers sooner rather than later, but I’m more like the Israelite slaves. I can only see from this side of the story.
Its Monday morning… my favorite morning of the week. Yes, I’m just a bit weird when it comes to Mondays. And I’d be lying if I said this morning went smooth. Mornings just aren’t that way when teen boys lay in bed longer than they should and everyone leaves a bit frustrated. Still its Monday. The beginning of a week all wrapped in potential and possibility. Who knows what God might just do by Friday. What action He is taking because of the prayers of His people. There may be a few more plagues to come before we cross the Red Sea. This life might just reek of dead frogs and drive us crazy with flying gnats. Sometimes we find ourselves falling short of our quota and wondering if anyone’s listening up there.
He is… listening. He is moving and active. We don’t always get it when we’re stuck right in the middle of an unfolding story, but we will. One day we will. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying…
There’s two sides to every story.
One side we see, the other we don’t. Faith is living in one and trusting that the other side is planned to perfection by a God who never breaks His promise and is always leading us home.
Want to read the story of Moses for yourself. Just click on the link below.
She comes as we’re having lunch today a bit frazzled. Seems she lost her driver’s license and she can’t figure out where it is. She’s been in my life since I can remember… my friend’s mom. I’ve eaten her meat dishes (that’s any casserole with meat in it) and spent many a night in the room across the hall from her listening to records and giggling until my stomach hurt. There are two things she always has in her purse… lipstick and tissues. Her glove compartment is always full of sunglasses… mostly broken ones. Who knew so many pairs could fit into such a small space?
I walk to the car and there in the flower bed a rose blooms. It’s not the season for blooming flowers and I give thanks to the Creator who is never constrained in time or season.
Frost glitters on limbs and roofs and power lines as I journey to worship this morning. I round the car to grab my stuff when I notice these wisps of steam rising from the roof. I understand the science of it–cold air meets warm air…. There’s no miracle in it right? Explaining something doesn’t explain it away. It just gives me reason to celebrate a God who is willing to reveal His secrets.
I’m feeling a lot like the roof today… all filled up with His Spirit to the point it might just seep right out like steam rising. I’m so thankful for worship and the preacher who talked of gifts given and how leaving them packaged up in boxes doesn’t do much to help build His kingdom. The flute player sharing her gift this morning, and the lunch with friends who surprised us with a visit. The college daughter sitting with me in the morning over coffee and conversation, and these few quiet days when I get the house to myself.
The quiet comes to an end as the happy hunters return.
They’re all loud and telling adventure tales of funny happenings, pintail drakes, and memories they won’t soon forget. The clothes mountain suddenly looks camouflaged and still I’m thankful… for boys, and hunting gear strewn all over… for dads and granddads who take hunting trips with growing boys.
I have this secret when the fear gets overwhelming. When I’m all jitters about entering His presence, there’s just one thing left for me to do. One way to get me moving beyond fear. One way to move towards holy ground.
Feels too simple to be true. Can you really enter his gates… the inner court by simply giving thanks? In short answer–YES! Fear is all about yourself, keeps you inwardly focused. Giving thanks returns our focus back to Him. Go ahead try it. I dare you. Find one day this week and go on a hunt. Open your heart and your eyes to all the gifts, all the reasons you have to give thanks. Giving thanks just might move you to new ground. Like Moses you’ll hear him say, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Barefoot and thankful–now that’s the way to live!
Maybe you would share your thanks-giving with me… with us right here on the blog? Just drop a comment below.
I’m intrigued by Esther. An orphan raised by her uncle, taken to the palace to be groomed for the king. She was a wise lady despite her young years and she listened to the king’s servants instructions. She found favor with all those she encountered. The king was smitten with her and crowned her queen. Its the bible’s own Cinderella story. Orphan girl becomes queen and enjoys all the benefits of royalty.
All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-12774F" data-link="(F)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> the king has but one law:<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-12774G" data-link="(G)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-12774H" data-link="(H)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.
Approaching the king in the inner court, even if you are the queen, could mean death. At this point if I had been Esther, I would have begun shaking in my shoes. It’s a fear I’ve had since I can remember… approaching those in authority. I never, no never, want to be “in trouble”. There’s this invisible driving force in me to please others. As a college student I remember listening to friends who would tell tales of meeting with professors to argue their grades. Not me, I took what was given, even if it was unfair, because there was no way I was going to talk to the one in charge.
Even now important meetings or tough discussions with the hubby can send me into panic mode. In my mind I list all of the things I’ve messed up… the reasons why I don’t deserve a good ending in the situation. So over the years I’ve developed an incredible skill… avoidance. I mean if you don’t ever do anything that gets you called to the “principal’s office” then you never have to face the fear. When I hear others say, “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” I want to scream—No It’s Not! If I had been Esther I would have never made it to the door of the inner court.
I’ve honed my avoidance skill to a fine art. The trouble is it no only applies to the earthly relationships I have, it leaks over into the relationship I have with God too. Its the reason the whole Matthew 7 scripture usually leaves me in tears. These people were prophesying and healing. Miracles were happening in the name of Jesus… and He never knew them. Is it possible this could be me? What makes me different? Where did they go wrong? If what they did wasn’t enough, well I probably won’t be enough either.
I believe some get to this point of thinking (because I’m hoping I’m not alone in this) and just let the following Jesus thing go. What’s the point if you’ll never be enough to get to heaven anyway? Might as well live it up here on earth. And I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t times I lived this way early on in life.
It sounds crazy I know. Those I’ve shared the issue with over the years have reminded me often of the promises God has for his children. How when we’re following Him… believing in Him we have an automatic entrance into His inner court. I’ve even been challenged about my faith and salvation because if you’re saved you know it… you shouldn’t be afraid.
I love Esther’s response in this situation. She tells everyone to fast and pray with her. And then she says, “If I perish, I perish”. In that moment she throws caution to the wind and chooses courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s taking the next step in spite of it. Living enough is not waiting for some magical place or time when fear doesn’t exist. It is choosing to take the next step when your flesh is crying out for you to run. For me it’s not about facing fear but more about moving through the fear to the other side. Esther entered the king’s inner court that day and found grace. He extended his scepter and spared her life. She took the steps to move through fear and those very steps saved the lives of an entire generation.
I’m finding myself more like her these days. Throwing caution to the wind and saying, “If I perish, I perish”. When I step through the fear, I find myself in the inner court smack dab in the middle of His presence. He extends His nailed scarred hand out to me, and grace overwhelms me. Grace reminds me who I am… whose I am. And I hear quiet words washing over me… you are loved, you are saved. You. Are. Enough.
When we first married I would have told you my husband loved two things… fishing and baseball. I myself didn’t care for either one. Both, to be honest, seem a little dull. Both include a lot of waiting. Every once in a while there seemed to be some action but the waiting in between was for the birds. I didn’t get the anticipation of a small nibble on a hook or the fight of a batter fowling off pitch after pitch. Somewhere along the way my fisherman picked up duck hunting too.
These days aren’t much different as far as his love of hunting, fishing, and baseball goes. Except now there are five of us and four out of the five have developed a love for them too. Even the girl… who knew!
Around this house the seasons include fishing (spring, summer, fall), duck hunting (three months in the dead of winter), and baseball (as long as our favorite team is playing). We have a shop and closets full of all things needed for the three and these days duck hunting has taken over.
Over the years I’ve grown to love baseball. Who wouldn’t watching their own three play it all those years? The first time my middle one stumbled up to the plate with a batting helmet so big he looked like a bobble head, hit the ball off the tee and ran the wrong way–I fell in love. Not so much with the game, but they were so cute in their little uniforms. I still don’t fish but I can float for hours with a good book. Duck hunting–no way!
First of all its cold, I mean icy cold. Not to mention you are usually standing in water. Then there’s all the sleep you lose from rising before the sun. So this is how our weekends go. Me, remaining warm and toasty under the covers while the rest of the house quietly leaves for the love of sitting, watching the sky and calling waterfowl overhead.
In the middle of the week the happy hunters return with duck ready for eating and so I stash it in the refrigerator. This particular meat has always been a mystery to me when it comes to cooking it. I rummage through the cookbooks for a plan, and decide duck gumbo it is. He wanders through the kitchen Saturday morning and I tell him about the meal plan. He perks up with sleepy eyes and asks if he can help… even goes to the grocery store to get supplies.
We spend the morning cooking, slicing, creating our masterpiece of sausage and duck and spices galore. We visit and talk and taste. Who knew duck gumbo would provide a mother and her teenager some common ground… because lately we need more common.
Love is hard. It takes laying down your own will and way for the sake of another. Sometimes its about saying and doing the hard stuff. The tough love stuff. Other times that same love slides in slow on a Saturday morning in the midst of cooking and stirs together some common ground. It’s the same Love that followed the way of the cross and changed the world. His sacrifice for us created a bridge between common and holy. What we consider common, normal, ordinary suddenly becomes sacred ground where love is revealed. The woman in Proverbs understood this. She went about her day doing the next thing. It probably felt pretty common to her. She wasn’t much different than you or me going about our normal routine. It was her Love overflowing on those normal things that made the difference… turned normal into holy. I can’t just turn those verses in Proverbs 31 into some kind of to do list that makes me enough. No, enough is understanding the work of His love in all my normal things.. It’s embracing that every single time— love. is. enough.
The son steps up to speak at the dear one’s funeral. His choice of scripture fills me with dread. Oh I have read it…and picked it apart. I have thrown my hands up and said, “There is no way!” I have yearned to be that scripture and longed to be the woman found there.
There at the end of the 31st chapter of Proverbs you will find her. And if you notice you can even make a list of things to do and be in order to be like her. It can’t be that hard right if you can list it?
Work with willing hands, check….bring food, check…get up very early…buy land…plant things…stay strong…reach out to the poor, check…chec….che…. I’m exhausted just typing about it. This woman must have super powers.
For the first time a phrase sticks out to me…something that never has before.
She makes her own bed coverings, her clothing is fine linen and purple.–Prov. 31: 22
Fine linen and purple are the fabric and color of royalty. This woman is a queen. Really? Not my idea of a queen to be honest. I picture a queen just sitting around in beautiful clothes, hair done by someone, food brought to her, never wanting for anything. The Proverbs 31 lady doesn’t fit this profile…at all!
The preacher stands and reads a few things from the dear one’s Bible and my perspective begins to shift.
I cannot do anything to make God love me more.–Bunny’s Bible
The Proverbs 31 woman understood this. It is the reason for her royal clothes. She was a queen through and through not because of what she did but because of whose she was. I want to shout…it’s not a list! Not a list!
No, this is love. The love of a King clothes us in linen and purple. And we are royal because He is. This is the super power of the woman found at the end of the wise sayings. I read the words again and something in me shifts. The things she does, her wisdom and strength are expressions of her love for Him. An overflow of who she is in Him.
This woman is not perfect, nor am I. No one wrote of the things she messed up. Why do I focus on those things I mess up? Could it be that who I am in Him is all that is needed to write such words about me? My head shakes with the impossibility. It is too crazy to believe. Still, I want to…believe it…even live it.
The first thing we must do to live enough is to embrace the reality of who we are in Jesus. My friend Bunny understood it and she oozed love from every pore. She touched my life and the lives of others in a way that lives on today.
So, I’m challenging myself today… maybe you could join me. Let’s take a look at the expressions of His love overflowing from us this week. Let’s make a list just like the one found in Proverbs 31. You won’t find me holding a distaff. I’m not even sure what that is! I’m not planting a literal vineyard this week either. But, I did make shakes for the middle one’s breakfast… and slice apples for snacks. I put the kitchen in order and threw some clothes on to wash. I even cooked duck this weekend… more to come on that one.
Being a daughter of the King is not about some unattainable list, but the little things we do each day to share our love for Him and others.
So go ahead… I dare you. Start making your list. Would you consider sharing some of those things you put on your list this week? If so just click in the comments box below. I’d love to hear from you.
Its the first day of the new year and I’m always excited when this day comes. I’m all about new! Yes, I admit I do like new things, but that’s not the new I’m talking about. I love, love, love new beginnings. The adrenaline rush that comes over me when a new idea surfaces.
Through the years I’ve had many great ideas. I’m the one who can see the end result from the beginning. I’ve watched others at times when I’ve shared some new thing. Me all giddy and chattering on about this new thing becoming a reality. All the while they’re thinking about what it would take to even do such a thing. My poor friends and family must think I’m crazy at times.
This post you’re reading now…well, it feels crazy new, but its not a new thing at all. I still remember my first diary. I must have been in elementary school and it was the coolest gift to me. The little gold key that unlocked its latch somehow gave me the courage to write. There in the pages this ten year old would share her heart and then lock it up tight and hide it under my mattress. I don’t remember what I wrote about in those days. Somewhere along the way I lost the precious little book with the gold lock, but I didn’t lose the desire to write.
Over the years diaries turned into journals. I’m sure there are at least ten in the house right now, and I don’t tend to fill one up before I begin another. They hide away tucked in drawers around the house complete with song titles and gratitude lists…prayers, scriptures and my thoughts on all the above.
And then came blogging. It all began with a way to let parents know what their kids were up to at summer camp. Camp counselor by day…blogger by night. It was late as we returned to our cabin from worship. Ten giggling girls all nestled in beds. We just finished devotional and heard the “lights out!” call. The computer screen lighting the face of the sweet one next to me. She’s looking at me with tears sparkling in her eyes. “What’s the matter? Are you homesick?” I ask.
She shakes her head and smiles, “No, I just can’t believe Jesus loves us that much.”
We left camp all filled up and I just kept on blogging. It’s scary, risky business for an introvert to share thoughts that aren’t tucked away under mattresses. I’m an expert at smiling on the outside and hiding all the inside. It takes years for me to feel safe enough to share with someone. There’s always those thoughts like little creatures gnawing at the fringes of my mind. What will they think of this? Will they understand or judge? If they really, truly knew me…it wouldn’t be enough.
For years, maybe my entire life, the thought of not being enough has driven me. Something is always driving us you know. Some hurt or hang-up…some lie the enemy has sown into our lives. My little friend said it all that night…”I just can’t believe Jesus loves us that much”. Its the beautiful picture of grace. God containing Himself in skin just to reveal His love for us. Can you imagine how much He must have wanted to break free at times? How often did that skin feel like prison chains? That’s what His life was all about…setting us free. It’s the struggle we all face in some way…getting free from who we think we are to be who we are in Him.
And there you have it my friends. My prayer for 2016 and every year to come. May we live free in Him and always remember who we are and whose we are.