WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT YOURSELF?

Standard

By Lisa Huddleston

images-1John the Baptist was asked an interesting question by the priests and Levites who ventured into the wilderness to investigate him, “Who are you? What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22, emphasis mine).

It struck me as I read this morning that this is a question I frequently face. It is commonly voiced in our culture by the words, “What do you do?” but it is also something I ponder when I am alone.

What do I say about myself to myself?

I have to confess that fairly often my words aren’t so sweet. I can be a very harsh critic, and I frequently don’t hold back on the ugly words. My poor battered mirror can testify that!

But I like how John replied. He didn’t build up his position, but neither did he tear it down. He didn’t try to make it easy for others to peg him, but neither did he hold back the truth. He simply said,

I am the voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’

How do you answer that question today? What do you say about yourself? Do you apologize for not being what you think others hold in high esteem? Do you tear yourself down with denigrating words? Well, all I can say to that is, “STOP!” I know–easy to say, oh so hard to do. But all change begins with the realization that there is a better way, and John has prepared that way for us, as well.

I love that John knew who he was, and that he answered his questioners without apology or even pride. No, he was not Elijah. No, he was not the Prophet. Instead, he was exactly whom God had made him to be—a wild hairy dude wearing camel skins and eating locusts in the desert but also the one who came to prepare the way for the Christ.

Hmmm. I like that.

PUTTING MY FOOT WHERE MY MOUTH IS

Standard

By Lisa Huddleston

This post is a re-run. No, that does not mean that I am reprinting an old post—it does mean that I have to keep learning its message over and over, time after time, ad nauseam even. Sheesh!

This truth is that doing anything, accomplishing almost any goal is more about persistence than it is about anything else. And that is a difficult truth to grasp.

Heck, I literally have this message tattooed on my right foot—truly—so you’d think I might be able to remember it. A long obedience in the same direction … is what gets us wherever it is we hope to arrive.

get-attachment.aspxBut this week I faced a difficult situation at “work.” I use quotation marks to set off this designation, because I am not a “real” employee at the Adult Learning Center. I am just a “volunteer” meaning I can come and go as I please and no one can really can expect too much of my abilities as a teacher.

Now, that doesn’t mean that is how I treat my “job.” I actually take it very seriously, show up on time, watch the clock during breaks, do my best with any task I’m given, and so on—as long as I am not paid to deliver I am less worried about my perceived inadequacies as a teacher and I can assist spontaneously without panic or too much fear.

However, this week was different. The regular teacher was taking a well-deserved vacation, and, because she is a true force to be reckoned with and would not take no for an answer, I was to teach in her place! What what?!

Oh, don’t think I didn’t try my best to squirm out of it! One thing I did was decide to spend my volunteer hours this whole year on one day instead of splitting them between two days as I had in the past. I told them it was a more efficient use of my time (and it probably truly is), but it was really because I hoped they’d get someone else to substitute for these two weeks! They did not.

But after teaching on Tuesday, I realized how difficult it was going to be for the “real” workers to cover “my” classes, and I felt guilty putting work I could do onto others so I caved. I actually offered to do it all! And as soon as I did, I knew it was the right step to take.

The truth is, God made me to be a teacher in one capacity or another, and when I walk in obedience to that I honestly find a great deal of joy. My family, friends, and other teachers have all told me so–but fear is a difficult obstacle to overcome. Thankfully, the classes this week went very well, the students seemed happy and engaged in learning, and I felt useful if not actually confident in the role.

So it’s one step at a time as the opportunities arise—for at least another week and hopefully for a long time after that. No, I don’t plan to apply for a “real job” as a teacher, but I’m trying not to rule anything out. God knows the work he has for me to do and as long as I can keep my eyes off of me and focus on the needs I can meet then all will be well. I pray … if I can just keep walking … and maybe position myself from time to time to see that crazy tattoo on the outside of my foot!

What goals or needs or opportunities are you allowing to go unmet because of fear or lack of discipline or insecurity or self-indulgence? Do you secretly know of something you feel drawn to do but aren’t willing to face up to the obstacles that stand in your way? What can you do today to set your eyes and your feet back on the path of long obedience? May these words encourage us all—just do it and then keep on doing it!

 

 

EBOLA AND ISIS AND WARS–OH MY!

Standard
The sky is falling!

The sky is falling!

By Lisa Huddleston

Yesterday the country learned that a second healthcare provider in Dallas, Texas, has been diagnosed with Ebola, and the media is exploding with finger-pointing stories blaming the hospital, the workers themselves, the CDC, the government, and anyone else we can think of to assign guilt.

Of course, what lies behind our furious scramble to identify fault is our fear of losing control over this painful and deadly epidemic. If we can find someone to blame then perhaps we can correct the problems and return to our previous state of innocence.

By “innocence” I do not mean that we have been unaware of the turmoil that is swirling around the surface of our world. Yes, our troops have traveled far and wide striving to quench the fires of disaster that persist in erupting. But most of the devastation has been “over there.” The bullets and bombs and barbary have generally missed us—with notable exceptions of terror. The current events mean we actually may have to face the global fire ourselves, and that thought is terrifying.

As the wife and mother of healthcare professionals, I have to admit to being fearful. I am afraid for my family and subsequently for myself. There—I said it. I know we aren’t prepared for a national disaster on the level of what is happening in West Africa, and I am afraid.

But God (to borrow a show-stopping phrase from Scripture). . . Yes—BUT GOD.

God is not surprised, unaware, or afraid. He IS omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign. And He loves us which is why He has tried to prepare us for the disasters that are sure to come.

“… because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

            “But in those days, following that distress,

“ ‘the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

            “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:19-27)

Yes, I know Jesus’ words referred to events that were soon to happen in the lives of his hearers, but as is true of many of the prophetic words in the Bible, they also refer to events that have not yet taken place. Jesus wanted his followers to be prepared for what was to come so that they and we would not despair when the great trials came.

Well ... maybe not so near as I think?

Well … maybe not so near as I fear?

You’d have to be crazy not to fear the evil that is facing our world today. ISIS, Ebola, and even the many natural disasters such as fire and flood that seem to be increasing (although statisticians disagree—thank goodness). There is scary stuff happening in this world!

But I, you, and we don’t have to live in fear! Can bad stuff happen? Oh yeah. Will bad stuff happen? Absolutely. That’s why Jesus told us it would. But that doesn’t mean that this is IT—even though it is good to remember that one day it will be.

I know I tend to overreact when faced with stressful stuff, and I pray that a year from now I’ll read this post with embarrassment over being so worked up. (Yeah—I stocked the pantry just a little extra prior to January 1, 2000.)

But even in my hysteria there is God and He is good. And that’s why my thoughts have been dwelling on the following words:

“Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things … And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

Be on guard by keeping abreast of current events, dwell on the good and lovely things, and peace out, my brothers and sisters. Aren’t you glad He’s coming again?

 

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?

Standard

By Lisa Huddleston

Sunday was a special day. For the first time in quite a long while, we had all three of our grown children and each of their significant others together at one time in our home! It was simply grand, and I’ve been savoring moments from that day as this week progresses, smiling over quirks and differences, and delighting in each one of their unique personalities. What a blessing it is to have these kids in my life!

Nick, Becky, John and Sarah--Crazy group hug!

Crazy group hug!

This morning as I tried to catch up on my “daily” Bible reading schedule, I was reminded of my kids and the fact that I am God’s kid and how much we all love to give good things to our children—but sometimes we would like to have them ask for what they need.

My kids run the gamut when it comes to the “willing to ask” spectrum. One wouldn’t ask for help unless a life depends upon it. One will ask but with great regret and hand wringing. And one is happy to ask and persist in asking—it never hurts, right?

I think perhaps I fall somewhere within the first and second of these traits. Sometimes I am too proud to ask others for help. I can do whatever I need to on my own. At other times, when I really feel broken, I will ask, but with much apologizing and great shame. Rarely do I ask with comfort and joy (or confidence and faith). More’s the pity, I think.

As I read in the Gospel of Mark this morning, the Spirit asked me to consider the importance of asking.

Chad and Heather

Chad and Heather

First I noticed that the father of a son who had seizures asked the disciples to heal his boy, but they could not so they brought the child to Jesus. And the father asked again. Not with great faith but with very little. “If you can do anything ….” Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” To which the hopeful father answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:22-24).

I get that. Many times I don’t want to ask because my doubt gets in the way. I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed, that maybe God can’t or won’t provide what I need. Often, my best and only prayer is, “Help my unbelief.” Ask!

Next I read that the disciples did not understand what Jesus told them about his impending death and resurrection, but they “were afraid to ask him about it” (9:32). Wonder what scared them? Did they think Jesus would laugh at them or chastise them or punish them? Were they afraid of what the other disciples would think? Oh, how a fuller understanding of Jesus’ words would have comforted them when the time came for them to be fulfilled.

Sarah and John

Sarah and John

I understand this reason, too. Who wants to look stupid especially when others seem to be much more assured and confident in their faith? It’s hard to admit to ignorance, but it’s so much better than remaining in it. Truth beats back our fear and provides what we need to persevere through hard times that are sure to come. Ask!

Next I noticed the rich man who asked Jesus the most important question. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17). How did Jesus respond to the man? He “looked at him and loved him.” Jesus saw into the man’s soul, he knew the sin that was hidden there, but he LOVED him!

Sometimes I hesitate to ask because of my sin. I know how unworthy I am, and I know that my Heavenly Father knows how unworthy I am. I can’t wear a mask with God. But I’m grateful to be reminded that my Father loves me, and a loving Father wants his children to ask. Ask!

Finally good ol’ James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked for power, to sit on either side of Jesus’ throne. I think Jesus realized their naivete, patted them on their heads, and knew that soon they would see their mistake. But he didn’t tell them not to ask.

Sarah, Heather, Chad, Becky & Nick around our table!

Sarah, Heather, Chad, Becky & Nick around our table!

Have a stupid question? (And, yes, there are stupid questions!) Ask Jesus anyway—he may smile and pat you on the head, but he’ll never tell you to stop asking. Ask!

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (11:22-26).

I don’t have the space to do justice to these words, but, no, if I ask for a red Ferarri Jesus doesn’t mean I’ll get it. Jesus spoke with metaphors that his audience clearly recognized and understood. Even Jesus asked to let the cup of his suffering pass him by, and he didn’t get that. But he also taught his disciples to pray, “God’s will be done.” Ask!

If we come to our Father trusting in the right way and in the right things, we can ask our Good Father anything and know that he will hear our prayer. Ask for more faith, less fear, more understanding, less pride … more of him and less of me. He will answer and give us what we need.

There is very little I would withhold from my sweet children—anything I have is theirs! “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11).

ASK!

ARE WE ALL ‘GONE GIRLS’?

Standard
I don't care. I still hate this phrase.

I don’t care. I still hate this phrase.

By Lisa Huddleston

I just finished reading the much acclaimed novel, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, and all I can say is “Wow!” Not that it ended just as I would have hoped, but still, could there be a better book to represent who we are as people in this image-driven moment in time?

Don’t worry—I don’t plan to discuss the carefully twisted plot of the book and possibly ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it or seen the movie—but I would like to take a few paragraphs to consider how like that girl many of us actually are. How much time do we spend contriving our public personas, crafting our profiles, and posting pictures that flatter the image we want the world to see while all the time we feel as though we can never truly be known or at least not truly known AND still loved?

Whew! Heavy, heavy stuff.

I have to confess to being guilty of sometimes being a “Gone Girl.” I delete the ugly pictures. I omit the bad moments or thoughts or actions from my time line. I post the happy things, the cheery things, the thoughts and pictures that everyone can ‘like’ without fear.

But, of course, there is more to me than my profile, and a lot of it isn’t too likable. And, of course, those with whom I actually live know many of those unlikable traits and still manage to like and even love me. My friends, my family, even my husband are able to overlook the dark moments that sometimes break through my bright covering.

But I wonder how much darkness would be too much? I mean no one, no human being, can really love unconditionally. Sooner or later, there is a last straw that can drop—if one were to let all the straws fall.

And that’s why we can’t let all the ugly show. We need people in our lives and too much ugly is simply repellent. (Notice how I have switched to the pronoun “we”? I’m hoping you get this and that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I really do want you to like me. In a pitiable, Sally Field kind of way.)

Maybe that’s at least part of why this time of life is so difficult (the middle-age, post-children era). I don’t know what roles to play. Sure, I am still some of those people I have been in the past, but none of them feels like the real deal. And I just can’t tell you what that real deal is! So often I feel as though I, too, have “gone missing.” (What a stupid phrase!)

Just yesterday I exposed to my ever-patient husband that I feel another change in the air. I need a new wardrobe, a new set of costumes to wear, but I just don’t know what clothes fit me now. And I wasn’t just speaking metaphorically.

Well … if you haven’t read the book, do. Then we can talk without spoiling the plot, ok? Are we all “Gone Girls” in one way or another? Not sociopaths (I hope!) but people living out roles that make us acceptable to others for one reason or another and give us something we feel we need?

Let me know. It gets lonely out here waiting to be found.

DOG DAYS

Standard
Hazy, hot, and humid week at THE Wilson County Fair.

The 2014 Wilson County Fair.

By Lisa Huddleston

1. Hazy, hot, and humid are the three most commonly used words.

2. THE County Fair ends this weekend.

3. We only need to mow the yard every other week.

4. The trees look tired of holding up dry, so-over-the-green leaves.

5. Visions of pumpkins, sweaters, and bonfires dance in our heads.

6. The public pool closes in one week.

7. The kids are already back in school. (Poor kids, poor teachers!)

8. Most of the flowers look just plain sad.

9. Cracker Barrel already has Christmas decorations on display.

10. Even the dog wants to stay inside in the air conditioning.

Making the best of dog days.

Making the best of dog days.

How do we get through the ennui? Find reasons to laugh, take it one moment at a time, and know that soon and very soon it will be autumn.

I’m thankful for the promise found in the changing seasons, for the beauty that is to come, and for the sound of the lawn mower that my son is riding to cut the grass one more time. 

Baruch HaShem!

 

BEFORE THE LAST STRAW

Standard
Oh, my aching back!

Oh, my aching back!

By Lisa Huddleston

Some days I feel as though I just can’t take it anymore. Just one more word of bad news, of suffering due to disease or choice or pure evil, and I’m finally going to crack.

And despite all the well-intentioned (and true) articles people have written, posted, and shared about how to effectively impact issues like genocide, starvation, disease, depression, suicide, injustice and so on, I simply and honestly feel powerless.

And that powerlessness leads me to despair.

But God reminds me that He is the power in my life–and in all the other lives that are currently inhabiting this scarred and bleeding planet. When doubt, despair, and powerlessness threaten to rip me apart, this truth holds me together like gravity for my soul:

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28, The Message).

As He died in our place, He even prays in our place! He is the power for the powerless, the prayer for the prayerless, and the hope for the hopeless.

Oh, may thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven … before even one more straw can fall. Amen.