OH, SO THAT’S WHY

wild-sage-homestead-aha-momentBy Lisa Huddleston

My pastor preaches verse by verse through one book of the Bible at a time, and last week he began the Old Testament book of Judges. Being an eager beaver type I like to read ahead, so this morning I was pondering Chapter 2. Yesterday I had penciled in the margin of Chapter 1, “Why couldn’t they [the Israelites] manage to drive out all the other people? Surely, God could manage.” And then today I read 2:23–“That’s why God let those nations remain. He didn’t drive them out or let Joshua get rid of them.”

Okay, you have to read back a little further to get the “that’s why.” You see, Chapter 2 tells us that after all of Joshua’s generation died out, there was no one left who knew anything about God or who followed Him. (What? How did that happen?!)

Well, anyway, that ignorant generation started worshiping other gods and so God left all those other nations there in His Promised Land in order to test Israel and see whether they would stay on His path or not.

Whew! That is so sad on so many levels.

First, how did a whole generation not know about God? Didn’t their parents teach them? What happened to cause them to forget? Is that same thing happening today?

Second, I can’t help wondering what God is leaving in my life to keep me on track–you know, to test me and keep me honest. Ugh. I wrote out a little list and stuck it in my Bible right there on that page so it will be there when Pastor Jim preaches these words. I hope to hear more that day.

Maybe then I’ll be able to say, “Oh, so that’s why!”

WHAT’S IN YOUR LUNCHBOX?

Clumpy, wet grass.

Clumpy, wet grass.

By Lisa Huddleston

I only have a few minutes to write today so a few minutes is what I’ll take. Some days are like that. For example, because of the unusual amount of rainfall in the Southeast this year, my yard HAD to be mowed today. I simply couldn’t put it off any longer. Even though it was still too wet to mow. Even though I couldn’t make it look as pretty as usual. Even though there are still nasty looking clumps of grass everywhere. The grass had to be cut today or we’d soon need to bush hog it!

Do you hate doing cruddy work as much as I? Often instead of doing something that I’m afraid won’t turn out well I simply won’t do it at all. Perfectionism can paralyze me. But doing something is usually better than never doing anything so I have to push myself to go. A recent example of this is the beautiful loom my husband bought and assembled for me. I sincerely wanted this loom. I had wanted a loom for a very long time. A thoughtful friend had even taken me to a weaving class to learn the process. But I still was afraid to even try to warp the thing. Finally, I bought beautiful yarn, got out my instructions, and went to work. I loved the process as well as the product! So glad fear and inadequacy didn’t hold me back forever.

First solo weaving project begun.

First solo weaving project begun.

As I mowed and pondered both of these examples I remembered good words from a recent sermon by Jim Thomas as well as something I read just this morning in Mere Christianity. First, Jim’s sermon from Mark 8: Jesus asked his disciples an important question. When it was time for the many people who had gathered to eat, the disciples wondered how they could feed so many, and Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” Great question! How many loaves do I have? Today I’m running short on bread, but I can still make the most of what I have by sharing these words with you.

Then from C.S. Lewis: “We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.” Awesome! God provides the material, but what we do with it is up to us.

Okay, so the grass is cut, the first weaving project is on the table, and these words are about to be published just as soon as I add some pictures and push the button. Hope you enjoy the snack from today’s lunch and that it will feed your soul at least just a bit. How many loaves do you have?

LEARNING TO BE

By Lisa Huddleston

“Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him.  He also appointed 12–He also named them apostles–to be with Him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons”  (Mark 3:13-14, HCSB).

My pastor has been leading our congregation through the book of Mark for the past several weeks.  As always Pastor Jim’s verse-by-verse teaching leaves me with plenty to think about between Sunday sermons; but, this week in particular God has summoned me to come nearer, to look and to listen closer, and then, I am sure, to respond.

When he taught the verses above, Pastor Jim noted an interesting progression:  Jesus called those he wanted to join him to be with him before he sent them out.  Being before doing.  It may just be a sign of our busy times, but that really resonated with me.  Even though this is far from the first time I have heard this concept, it is still an illusive idea.  I find it difficult simply to be.  Don’t you?  Isn’t it easier to do than to be?

I have two friends who are currently involved in what I see as “radical” missions.  One is already on the continent of Africa.  The other will soon leave for Borneo.  Their trips are purely for the sake of evangelism.  I don’t think there are buildings to construct or water purifiers to donate or medical procedures to execute or even Vacation Bible Schools to perform.  They are simply going out as ambassadors of Christ.  They are representatives of his being alive in them.  And that sort of freaks me out.

Don’t get me wrong.  I strongly believe in the doing of faith as well the being of it.  The book of James makes it pretty clear that faith leads to works, and the rest of scripture concurs that God cares greatly about the welfare of people.  We Christians should do good work!  No doubt.  But we should first of all be with him, be in him.  And that being is what we should be sharing–even when we are working.

And that is my struggle.  The being.  In this morning’s reading, John Stott declares, “Nothing keeps people out of the kingdom of God more effectively than pride or self-sufficiency” (Through the Bible, Through the Year).  So I wonder which one it is today–pride or self-sufficiency? Both? And isn’t one just another name for the other?

Is doing taking the place of being in my life?  Am I too proud to accept grace?  Am I still trying to earn God’s or man’s approval?  Is that why I don’t see demons being driven out around me?  Has doing without being led to cynicism and at times even despair?  Perhaps so.  But God never quits.  He reminds me that miracles still happen, and he sends me firsthand accounts through people I know (even though my logical heart tries its best to reject those reports).  He keeps me from settling into complacency with a holy discontent that never lets me rest too long.  And he never lets me go.  When all else fails–even my faith–he is faithful to be who he is.  I Am Who I Am.  The King of Being.

How do I respond?  Do I follow the apostles’ lead and go up the mountain to be with Christ?  And what does that even look like today? I’m not sure–but I am looking and listening now and throughout the day.  And perhaps that is the best response I could have.

LIVING UNDECEIVED

By Lisa Huddleston

My pastor, Jim Thomas, is famous for his use of quotations.  He tries to use the shorter ones on Sunday and the small chapters on Tuesday evening during Bible study–although I do believe he overlaps this approach at times (and I love it).  This past Sunday, one quote in particular stood out.  I’m an Os Guinness fan having read and reread The Call so I was already tuned in to the author, but the words themselves spoke to my soul:  Repentance is the beginning of becoming undeceived.

I am always flirting around with the idea of reality.  Whose reality?  Mine?  Yours?  God’s?  Of course, God’s is the real reality; but, how do I know when I’ve arrived at it?  What is really real?

Am I really real when I feel paranoid and left out of the party?  Am I really real when I think I look good in leopard print jeans?  Am I really real when I tell myself “I hate you” and wish I could just disappear?  Am I really real when I spontaneously tell a stranger “I love you” as I help her take her diapers and formula to her car?  What is really real, and will the really real me, please, stand up?

Os Guinness suggests repentance is where I should begin.  Okay.  Good thought.  I repent of self-centeredness, of pride, of self-importance.  Great and wonderful places to begin.  Oh God, really open my eyes to reality.  Undeceive me of the deceivers lies.  Help me to repent and keep repenting–not in a narcissistic way, but in spirit and in truth.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.  I want to see you.  I want to see you.