WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART?

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By Lisa Huddleston

“You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give” (Exodus 25:2).

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I read through the same Bible every year, The Daily Walk Bible.  I enjoy the continuity and even reread the notes I’ve made on previous passes.  It is funny to me how often I think the exact same thoughts and make a move to pencil them in only to find I’ve already written the words.  That’s why it was interesting that yesterday’s reading struck me anew.  No old underlinings.  No thoughts scratched in the margins.  Must not have been much to ponder, I thought.  It was after all only a description of God’s plans for the design of the tabernacle:  Exodus 25-27.  I’d probably never found much of interest in those chapters before.  But this time was different.

Right away it struck me.  God told Moses to have the Israelites bring an offering and only those whose hearts prompted them to were to give.  I wondered if I was one whose heart would have prompted me to give?  In fact, does it prompt me now?  And, if it does, what is it that I am to offer?  I underlined Exodus 25:2 and jotted these questions in my journal.  Good thoughts, I mused, as I read on.

Oh boy.  Now I remembered why I hadn’t paid close attention to these chapters before.  Forgive me, but pretty boring stuff.  It sure could have used some illustrations to keep me interested.  But in spite of myself, I started to pick up on something.  At the end of each section of His description, God said something like, “See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex. 25:40).  Or “Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain” (Ex. 26:30).  Or “It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain” (Ex. 27:8).  God had a plan, a pattern He wanted the Israelites to follow, and He was more than willing to show it to them.  Again, I underlined these thoughts and wrote in my journal.  Does God have a similarly specific pattern for my life?  Am I following the plan as He has laid it out?

It was something worth pondering.  In this example, God had laid out a pattern.  He even specified the materials, dimensions, and designs.  But then He gave the work to those whose hearts were willing to complete them.  I wonder were the embroiderers, metal workers, carpenters, and other artists allowed to work through their gifts with freedom of creativity and artistic expression?  Did their work feel restrictive or liberating?  Was God glad to receive their visions and innovations as long as they stayed within His specifications?

And finally I asked Him.  Lord, what is your plan for me?  With what materials do you want me to work?  What is my heart prompting me to give?  My answer, of course, is words.  Words to study.  Words to write.  Words to ask powerful questions through coaching.  Words to instruct and teach.  Words to encourage.  Yes.  For me, it’s all about words, and my pattern to follow is The Word.

Wow.  Amazing to find these treasures previously concealed but now shining like gems in what I thought was dull and only worth a skim.  And true to my conclusion, I want to pass them along to you.  What is God’s plan for you?  What materials has He given you to work with?  What is your heart prompting you to give back to Him as an offering?  The answers to these questions may not hit you right away, but I’m sure they’re waiting for you to discover when the time is right—if your heart is willing.

FOCUS

 

By Lisa Huddleston

“So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Even as I sit down to write, distractions swirl in my brain.  My body appears focused: rump in chair, hands on keyboard, eyes fixed on my nearly blank screen.  But in my head, a storm rages.  How can I help my son with his college auditions?  Did I get everything turned in for my class that begins next month?  Do I even have time for it?  Will anyone participate in the arts event I am planning?  When should I schedule a trip to see my dad?  Can I go to the store today to get food for the dogs?  My thoughts randomly run round and round bouncing off each other with increasing speed until I want to crawl back in bed, cover my head with my pillow, and go to sleep.  Someone, please, shut off the noise!  How can I settle down, stay out of  bed, and prioritize my thoughts so that this day will end not in confusion but accomplishment?

For me, the answer to that question is focus.  We all know those people who personify consistency.  A pastor’s wife and a former mentor of mine is one who exemplifies such focus.  Intense, still, and consistent in her beliefs, Ann has been a welcome harbor for many who have found themselves adrift in a storm.  Firm and unwavering.  A rock.  I always know where she stands and that she will still be standing there the next time I see her even if it is months or years from now.  I marvel at those who can demonstrate such incredible focus even as I swirl by in my noisy, inquiring-minds-want–to-know state of being.  Rarely still internally and frequently beginning fearful (at least to me), new projects, I appreciate those consistent pillars who can tether me to what is firm and unshakable.

Ah, yes.  The eye in the storm.   Now I remember.  And for a time the chaos stills.  First things first.  “Seek first the kingdom of God.” That’s it.  The focus I need.  Jesus.  And eternity reaches into my busy day.  “And all these things will be provided for you.”  Temporary things.  Things I need and those around me need.  Thank you, Lord, for knowing my needs and providing for them.  “Therefore don’t worry.”  Does He know me or what?  And I smile in this intersection of time and eternity.  Calmed for now.  Focused once again on the unseen, but not unseeing, Eternal.

Can you believe it?  (Of course, you can.)  The phone rings.  New thoughts.  New projects.  New worries and fears.  Exciting, stimulating, and not still at all.  And away I go.  But I know He’s still here—with me in the swirl of thought and activity.  Firm, unshakable, and consistent. My Focus.  My Anchor.  My Jesus.

THE VALUE OF A THING

By Lisa Huddleston

“The king answered Araunah, ‘No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

I work for two separate ministries that offer Christian life and ministry coaching to specific client groups pro bono. That means the coaches don’t get paid for work that in the secular world on average can cost anywhere from $75 to $150 for a one hour session. It’s an awesome value to receive this service for free: yet, it is common place for clients to cancel or not show up at their appointed times. While I feel privileged to serve in both of these settings, it has been growing clearer to me that many, if not most, of us take for granted the things that are given to us for free.

It’s not just in ministry work either. Those of you who are parents can testify that many of your children don’t really value the countless gifts you give them. Just look around your house and count the number of soft drink cans that have been opened, sipped once, and left to waste. Or the clothes that are purchased, worn once or twice, and then shoved into the back of a drawer only to resurface in the Goodwill pile in a few months. It can drive a mom or dad nuts! And let’s not stop there. I’m sure there are many examples you could add to my list of undervalued services and items that you encounter every day: social services, churches, public schools, music on the radio, and so on. No cost to us so little value to us as well.

I could really start to get my self-righteous back up over this attitude of ingratitude—especially when I’m the one feeling undervalued—but, as is frequently the case, God stops me in my tracks. Just when I’m really working into a lather over being stood up by a client or unappreciated by one of my children, God, my heavenly Father, says, “Yeah, Lisa, I know just how you feel.” Ouch. But I know it’s true. I tend to overlook, to undervalue, even to mistreat the gifts He gives that don’t cost me anything. For example, how often do I wake up to 24 brand new hours and take even a moment or two to thank the One who caused the sun to rise? More likely, I mutter, “My back hurts” or “I wish this day was already over.” For shame. “This is the day the Lord has made,” and I spurn His gift without a thought. But it came without a price tag. It cost me nothing, so it’s easily cast aside—shoved into the back of the drawer. Forgive me, Lord.

Yes, “forgive me.” Easy words to say and surely I can count on God to do it, but do I even value that? Forgiveness, grace, salvation—free to whoever will receive them. And sadly, also often devalued and taken for granted like the services I try to provide. I see it, Lord, a black stain of ingratitude in my own heart. I think because grace is free that it has no cost, and I continue to make choices that show my lack of appreciation for the One who gave His very life to save mine. I take one or two sips of salvation and then set it aside like one of my kids’ old soft drinks. Or I fail to show up to spend time with my Creator—yes, I dare to stand up God! Oh, Lord, I am sorry. And I am thankful for this lesson You have taught me today. Thank You for my life. Thank You for Your bountiful provision in it. And thank You, thank You, Lord, for Your grace. May I live every day from this one with an appreciation for the cost of my salvation and the value of the lives You have placed around me that I may serve. Amen.

CELEBRATE!

By Lisa Huddleston

“Let Israel celebrate its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King … Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory” (Psalm 149:2, 5).

My dear friend, Lisa Kent, loves to read and is always sharing with the rest of us new thoughts or ideas she has uncovered.  I love it when she gets excited over a fresh concept or a new perspective on life.  We can go on for hours about it—and often do just that—or when something really sticks in our craws, we can discuss it for days, weeks, or as in this case, months.  Yes, this one, by nature of its definition, is a year-longer.  Here it is:  rather than picking a resolution or one or two goals to accomplish in 2010, pick instead a Word for the Year that will color everything you do throughout the next twelve months. One word to shape an entire year.  Naturally, I was excited as soon as I heard about it—I love words, and I believe in the power they hold.  What a great and efficient idea!  I was hooked.

The problem came with choosing The Word.  After all, I was going to have to live with it for a whole year.  What word would adequately express all that I hoped to accomplish in the coming months?  I pondered it for weeks and actually felt discouraged that when New Year’s Eve rolled around it still had not made an appearance.  My husband and I, both natural introverts, had decided to stay in for the evening.  Sweet friends had invited us to their homes, but we were generally worn out from the holidays.  So there we sat curled up on the couch in front of our warm fireplace, munching on goodies, and watching a movie.  Chuck was still a little worried that I felt disappointed with the evening.  It was New Year’s Eve, and we were doing absolutely nothing.  But, no.  It was sheer bliss.  And then it hit me!  My Word for the Year was celebrate.

Okay, I do see the irony in it.  Staying home and missing the parties led me to choose the word celebrate.  But that is the whole point.  After the past few years of soul-searching and self-discovery, I have come to realize that the best place I can be is in the center of God’s design.  And He designed me as one who needs time alone, introspection, even occasionally isolation.  A quiet life.  I am happiest at home.  And that is what I am celebrating in 2010—being the person God has made me to be.  I laughed when one of my extraverted friends exclaimed when she heard my word, “Yay!  That means you’ll party more.”  No, it may mean I’ll be more of a party pooper than ever—but I will be happy about it.  Like the Israelites in the Psalm, I plan to celebrate my Maker by being who I am in all my triumphal glory. 

Several more have followed Lisa’s lead by choosing Words for the Year for themselves, and it has been interesting to learn their choices and to hear their explanations.  So, yes, my challenge for you is this:  give serious thought to choosing a Word as a theme for your year.  Pray about it.  Search your heart.  Think about how it could flavor everything you do, and then share it with someone else.  I really believe it will make a huge impact in 2010.  And, yes, drop me a line and let me know what you pick.  Part of what I’m celebrating this year is my burning desire to learn everything I can!  Thanks.  Happy New Year!