Posted in authenticity, eternal things, God's word, infertility, self-absorption, suffering in joy, transformation by truth

Wide Angle Lens

Don’t you just wish that you could view your life with a wide angle lens? We can get so mired down in our specific trouble that we become nearsighted and blind. There are those rare occasions that God gives me a gracious glimpse of his purposes and reasons and I actually listen. Notice I said rare…
On Sunday, I was heading out the door to church when Liz, a girl I mentor, called. She was very scared and had been in a car wreck on the interstate about an hour from Knoxville. She could not reach her mother, and I took off to go help her. It was a blessing to be freed up to do that. I was able to be her mom’s hands and feet when she was not able to in another state. I’d like to think that I have been a step in for moms in many ways–to comfort scared daughters, to encourage, to rebuke, to share wisdom when they might not listen to their earthly moms. I thought to myself, “what would I do if I were her Mom?” “I would comfort, listen, feed her and make sure she gets rest.” So, I took her to lunch, and we talked about all kinds of things, and then I took her home to be comforted by her roomates.
I do not know the exact whys that God has me in the place of infertility (except that I know he is making me more like him and is being glorified in my suffering), but I was able to see with his eyes how I can minister to others now. If I had a baby, I would not be able to drop everything and help. My fall is filled with young women that I am mentoring–the scale would be much smaller with children. Another incident happened on Monday that God encouraged my obedience by helping one who could not help themselves. I was overwhelmed with joy of having the time to listen and respond–that he would give me an opportunity to be his hands.
I do not share this to toot my horn…I share it in joy because he gave me a bird’s eye view perspective. He allowed me to see others in need so that I was not blinded by my slight momentary heartache.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“So we do not lose heart. Thought our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Infertility, Rheumatoid Arthritis, family troubles, hard children, disagreements, unloving parents, unfair circumstances, frustrating marriages, financial troubles, unfulfilled feelings–are the things we see and experience everyday. These things are transient, but his truth which is unseen, his faithfulness, his promise, Christ, the eternal weight of glory is eternal. That is the wide angle lens of truth that I want to remember everyday. This day and it’s troubles in the light of eternity are nothing. Not to say that we cannot be sad and long for him–I think that is very biblical.

Psalm 88 shows us what it is to be real and lament in the midst of great pain without a reasonable answer of why our lives are the way they are. I am learning (ever so slowly and stubbornly) that I can be real with God in my pain and yet praise him and cling to his truth. I think I had been doing one or the other. I would either, cling to his truth that he is refining me and it is for his glory without engaging my heartache, or wallow in self-pity and sadness thinking solely about myself. Psalm 88 and a study I am doing called How People Change encouraged me to be real and face my pain and anger while soaking in his truth and the gospel. God did not create robots but real people with real emotions. Burying anger and sadness and numbing myself to get through and say the right things is not honoring to him–it does not make much of him. I was simply self-protecting. He is showing me to come to him in the midst–the messy package that I am–leaning into his truth and strength.
Oh that I can see with the wide angle lens and help others see with the wide angle lens. May I remember the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison that I am being prepared for.

James 1:3-4
“For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…wow. That is a wide angle lens. The Bible has a lot to say about suffering. May it form my worldview instead of an instant gratification culture that demands now and pouts when it does not come to pass in our timing.

Posted in authenticity, grace, infertility, isolation, self-absorption, spiritual growth

Isolation Remixed

Well, it is always a good lesson to put into practice that which you share–i.e., the prior blog. Last Tuesday afternoon marked a time of sadness for me about infertility, and I thought a lot about the blog when I decided how I should respond. My first inclination was to isolate myself–“No one wants to hear this, they may try to give you advice, they will not understand, you will bother them…”
However, I realized it was a time that I really needed help by bringing it to light. Sometimes it is a burden to share with others (I know this sounds awful). When you are sad and tired, it takes energy and time to communicate that which is on your heart. The simplest thing seems to be to push it down, but it is not the best thing. I gathered up the courage to call my husband who prayed for me and loved me well (way to go, Greg). Then, instead of acting like an in charge Aunt, I sent a text to my niece asking for prayer. I also shared with my friend who had gotten good news that day instead of hiding my emotions to not bother her. They all responded in precious ways. I was not cured from hurt, but I knew they were praying and loving me just the same. Instead of feeling ridiculous for the way I was feeling (which is what I felt before sharing), permission was given to be sad in the midst.
Thursday I got the opportunity to eat lunch with a new friend and hear her journey with fertility. It was good to be with one another and be real. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were pretty packed with people. I sit here today utterly exhausted with no emotional reserves. I long for the hurt to go away so I can get on with life today and this week–chores, study, celebrations, taxes, leading, listening, preparing for Easter. My friend, Beth, is always good to remind me to take my own advice–giving grace and going to God in the midst of the struggle. Why is it that I am such a hypocrit? Maybe because the person I am is merely learning to become that which it is not naturally–dependent, trusting, resting, bearing, loving (all characteristics of Christ) instead of self-reliant, self-righteous, independent, critical, and straight up selfish (all characteristics of Jen)! I thank God that through Christ, he gives immense grace.
So, today I pray to put into practice that which I know is true–‘I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.’ ‘His yoke is easy and his burden in light.’ My niece reminded me last week that Jesus wept–he knew sadness. May I trust Him in the midst.

Posted in God's word, grace, infertility, prayer, self-absorption, suffering in joy, transformation by truth

The perspective of the heart

     The last few weeks, I have been praying and concentrating heartily to guard my heart against anxiety and thinking on things that send me in a tailspin.  The particular thing the last few weeks has been fertility.  God has been gracious beyond belief to help me stay in the day, not panicking or thinking ahead.  (This is really personal to post, but I feel I should.)  

      Last night signaled a little tailspin.  I realized that I was not pregnant this month after another procedure.  The last two weeks I had been praying for my hope to be in Christ and not circumstance–and it really has been.  I think all perspective went out the window last night and today, though.  Dreams about it, panic about feeling left behind, all of these things blend together for self-pity.  Self-pity is wrong.  Period.  It means I am not sharing with God my heart and not trusting him.  He is in control of my womb.  He has reasons.  For all that he has shown me and done in me, I trust him.  I just get sad when I lose perspective so easily.  I realized as I was praying this morning that subconsciously I thought “if I have a good attitude about this, it will come.”  Like I could get rewarded for a work of a good attitude…like I could manipulate God.    I had forgotten the gospel in the midst.  I had forgotten God’s gracious and compassionate and faithful character.  

     God was gracious this morning to me as my Father.  I was reminded of all of the women who are in the groups I am leading this year.  There are 6 women that I have been around (5 in groups and one a mentor) and I am grateful to see their heart for their grown children.  I have been privy to see their heartache and their joys, their anxieties and their prayers.  It is so easy to forget the other side of this whole thing.  It becomes a challenge to see…will I ever get pregnant?  And then, I see the complexities of raising children, the heartaches when they go the opposite way you desire, the worry that multiplies as they make tragic mistakes.  I see the pain and joy that comes in child-rearing.  I also see, in each of these women, that their hope is not in their children or their husband but in God the Father, the Spirit and Jesus.  The more relationships that are added to our lives (whether husbands, wives, children, disciples, ailing parents, neighbors, friends), the more we see the need to trust God more and relinquish our “control.”  We see our need for him alone.  So, whether it’s waiting for children in his plan or raising them–our hope is not in them, but in Christ.  

        I have memorized Psalm 73:25-26 this week–“Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

     He reminded me that my flesh may fail…my body might not be acting like I want it to….my heart may fail in it’s perspective, but He is my hope.  He is my peace.  He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever regardless of circumstance, regardless of emotion, regardless of my faithfulness.  So, for right now, I am sad (and that’s okay), but my mind and heart are renewed in his truth.  I will need to be renewed daily (Romans 12:2).  I am also reminded to be thankful for all the opportunities he has presented me with to love and pour into women.

Posted in advent, discipleship, eternal things, idols, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, transformation by truth, trusting God

swirling thoughts

My prayer for today–also the words to a song:

‘Spirit, now living and dwelling within me, keep my eyes fixed ever on Jesus face.

Let not the things of this world ever sway me.

I’ll run ’til I finish the race…’

      These words encapsulate a theme swirling through my head and heart.  The questions at the forefront of my mind:  How can I continue to grow so much in selfishness?   How do I behold Christ and worship the Father with heart, soul, mind and strength through every thought, word, action, purchase, and decision when my culture and my adulterous heart subtly lull me to be enticed by worthless idols?   I am so easily pacified by worthless things.  Comfort becomes the end to which I strive–financial comfort, marital comfort, physical comfort, ministerial comfort.  This morning as I prayed, I confessed that so many times I use God as a rabbit’s foot…”hey, could you do this just enough so I can feel good and be comfortable and then go away?”  How I prostitute my heart to lesser glories–not lasting and certainly not knowing the greatest treasure of all–intimacy with Christ.  

     Yesterday we sang a song that I have sung seemingly a billion times.  One phrase haunted me ‘all of you is more than enough for EVERY thirst and EVERY need–you SATISFY me with your love.’  There have been times in my life where I have been satisfied by nothing else but His love–nothing else.  As I sang, I was convicted that I was relying on lesser things.  I longed for the times of intensity where I had to rely totally on Him (I was also scared half to death longing for those times because they were circumstantially exhausting).   Waning consumer satisfaction is what I am used to–eat this to feel good, attempt this goal to feel good, buy this for yourself or someone else to nurse the ache in your heart, change a room around to feel better about the void in your heart, look good on the outside to forget about the inside.  (The list is practically endless.)  The sick thing is that this is the easy out that people give.  Have you ever heard:  this has been a hard week, you deserve to relax…why don’t you…go out to eat, go buy something for yourself, go do something for yourself, have a few drinks, etc?   When I am meeting with someone in a disciple-making relationship, the temptation is to dole out that advice because it is easy–especially when I want to be liked for my own comfort.  However, that advice is so deadly–it is a lie, counterfeit joy.  The greatest satisfaction comes from knowing God and going to the depths with him.  The greatest satisfaction is to share our hearts in surrender getting past the surface of ourselves and knowing the absolute beauty of why we were created–to behold his glory.  I know that sounds trite or less than interesting to the heart when we are thinking about us, but going there with him is a deep gutteral lasting satisfaction.  He created us and everything in the world–does the creator not know what satisfies our hearts?  This takes commitment and perseverance  to continually lay down ourselves and trust in him.

     As God was working in me yesterday and today to bring me to this conviction, yet again, I picked up a book that my friend, Laura, gave to me a couple of months ago.  The book is called Five Who Changed the World by Daniel Akin.  It is a collection of five sermons about the lives of five foreign missionaries.  Tears came to my eyes and my heart was turned and awakened to greater treasures than the temporal things that tempt me.  So many times we are presented with theories of what we should be and live and do in Christ, but these were fresh, true biographical stories of giving up the temporal for the eternal treasure of Christ.  John Piper and others have also written biographies of the lives of those who lived fully in Christ.  Oh, how much you and I need to be reminded of what it means to live lives of abandon to Him.

    Now, secretly, I think every girl has this fear in her heart of being called to be single and serve as a missionary in China or some tribal land forgotten by God, but I was reminded of what was the heart of the issue in reading this book last night and this morning.  Each of these people were no more righteous or sacrificial than you or I in nature.  The theme of their lives seemed to be that they longed to know and treasure Christ more than anything.  The more they saw God for who He is, the more they longed more for Him.  The sacrifice that to you or I seems incomprehensible was not because it was about Him and not them.  They were each aware of their sin and aware of his holiness.  They also were aware of the state of the human soul apart from God.  They loved people because they realized His love for them.  Their main thrust or worship was of Him and not their husband or wife or family (and, yes, some had these).  The loss and the lack of human comfort in their lives was a stark contrast to our American culturized Christianity.  Whether serving in the 1800’s or 1900’s, these missionaries pointed out the counterfeit that each American was living when getting lulled to sleep in their comfort.  The prayers of Jim Elliot to know Christ–wow.

     In the land of plenty–yes, even in recession, do you know what I see?  A wasteland of spiritual poverty where we prostitute ourselves to so much lesser, temporal desires than living in abandon to know the One who brings us ALL we ever need–a deep soul quenching satisfaction from knowing Him and making Him known.  I am studying Hosea with Laura, and it is ripe with the imagery of adultery, prostitution and whoring, as the ESV states it, of the hearts of the people to false gods and idols.  They were completely about themselves, and yet, God was faithful.  He was warning of his discipline and he brought it.  The fruition of their prostitution was brought to them–yet he was also faithful to bring Christ–the end in which all hope rests.  Why are we playing the whore today when we have so much more than the people of Israel did–the fruition of Christ and his work on the cross?  In this season of celebrating THE HOPE of Christ’s birth, may you and I examine our hearts and repent and cling to His glorious purpose–our glorious hope.

Posted in abortion, persecution, poverty and hunger, self-absorption

An indictment on my self-absorbed life…

In the last few days, I have been convicted at every corner. My life, even in being “about” others is about me–my middle class world spinning round. It is so easy to “set up” life here in America to be insular, entertaining, comforting. Our worries may be major to us, but in the scheme of things, are minor to those without a pinch of bread to eat.
Three issues have been brought to the forefront of my mind–poverty/hunger, abortion, and the persecution of Christians in India and Iraq. These are issues in which I can choose to be uninformed. I choose to be uninformed by making the most important things in my life my needs and wants and comfort and the well-being of my family and friends in my community. This is easy to do. In fact, I have to literally choose to be informed about issues that take me out of my comfort zone. I simply swallow what is easiest to hear and to accept.
I get a Compassion magazine two or more times a year, and yesterday was the first time I have taken time to read it. Hmmm. Quickly I was reminded that the world is SO much bigger than me…that the need is overwhelming…that I will be held accountable to God for what I do with the abundance of resources He has given me. (yes, abundance, even when things are tight and I worry about finances–it is really relative in comparison to those I read about). I’m ashamed that I worry about fashion or my home’s look as I think about those surviving for another day.
With the election looming, I have also been thinking more about abortion. I have been reading up on some of the issues. It is easy to skirt over things and to not really ingest what the issues are. How often do I think about abortion? Not enough. In the last week, God has brought a sensitivity to me as I look around and see children around me–especially those with special needs. The conception of children is an amazing miracle–a work of God. The fact that some people are ill prepared to be parents and do a poor job of it is a reality. I worked in an inner-city school as a counselor for several years, and I heard so many stories and saw so much pain that I became numb. It is easy for people to become jaded and think in pragmatic terms about everything in life. Yet, again, we are still accountable to God for our actions, votes and consciences. Just because it would be “easier” to people’s lives or our society does not make something right. Our selfishness to shield ourselves from hardship and create ease is sick. I have been heartbroken reading what legislation is proposed for abortion. It is much easier to turn on the tv and be entertained than to think on these issues, but God has given me a mind, energy and resources to fight for those who do not have a voice–the orphans and widows–just as he has fought for me and brought me from life to death.
Through reading several blogs, I have also been reminded of the intense suffering, torture and death of those in relationship with Christ in India and Iraq (these are just two places–there are myriad places where brothers and sisters are suffering for the sake of the gospel). What a laugh that what I may think is horrible in my face everyday is NOTHING in comparison to what the body is experiencing elsewhere. I am reminded to pray for those brothers and sisters and get my mind and heart out of my self-absorbed existence. I pray to see the world in the big picture with God’s eyes, and I am reminded to cling to him heartily praying for those needs around the world. It is overwhelming to see, but just because I am overwhelmed and do not want to hurt from the pain, I cannot look away.
I encourage you to look up from your life…see the needs of those around you and beyond and be a light and prayer warrior. May we all be awakened from our self-absorbed slumbers.