Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons from a Facebook Status

This past week, a friend of my posted a status on Facebook that caught my attention and started an epically long chain of comments.  In her status she posited a suggestion that once a year we ought to be able to post whatever we are thinking rather than the passive aggressive sorts of things we often share with any and everyone who will listen (or in this case, read).  It struck me as I scrolled through people’s responses (as well as my own) that the majority focused on what drove us bonkers about others.  From text speak to grammatical errors, carpool line cutters, and the excessive use of selfies each person gave vent to their anger and frustration over somewhat trivial issues.  Most of it made me laugh, quite literally, out loud, but a lot of it also convicted me.

As I read through the comments I noticed a two things: I do many of the things that irritate others, and others became defensive of the things they did that irritated me.  For example, I have a personal, fiery, hatred for text speak, and while some agreed with me, others declared proudly that they used it all the time.  On the flip side, one person dumped on adult high-fivers, an action I may or may not participate in on a daily basis. 

It sort of embarrassed me a little.  But I think that’s a good thing.  Seeing other’s irritation at things I did rather cooled the flame of my own annoyance towards personal pet peeves; not that I suddenly became ok with them (good grammar is no laughing matter ;-)) but I discovered a little more grace. 

I think it’s the same way with sin. 

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”  Matthew 7:1-2

I can be such a Pharisee sometimes.  Growing up in a Christian home and being born with the insatiable desire to please everyone around me, I have always been a “good” kid who cringed at the thought of challenging authority figures or getting mixed up in the drama my friends always found themselves in.  I’d been taught that I wasn’t righteous, that Christ’s sacrifice alone made me acceptable to God, and I would have told you I believed it, but quite frankly, I don’t think I really did.

Then the mirror got turned around.  God began to shine a spotlight on the ugliness in my heart, the rottenness of my motivations, the untrusting fear that lead me to protect myself in any way possible and drove me from deeper relationships…the stench of death was and is so overwhelming that it often knocks me to my knees.  It sucks.  I don’t like seeing myself for who I really am, twisted and bent by sin.  But as the whitewash is peeled away I find my heart becoming more gracious towards others.  Like the situation with my pet peeves I continue to hate sin; it’s a cancer, it’s not God’s best, it poisons everything around us, but the Pharisee slowly shuts his mouth and my standard of measure is altered significantly.

Do you ever find the fire of your fury cooled when your own sin comes into view?

My prayer is matched with a promise, that “He Who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lessons from Potty Accidents

This week was a week of beginnings: first days of kindergarden, new jobs, inservice for teachers, and for me, my first, official class (complete with my second pair of tap shoes).  Nerves abounded.  Unlike some of my friends I was not sending off my little one into the hands of another adult, rather, I was the aforementioned adult (so-called).  Worse still, with the baby classes mothers come to watch, fishbowl style.  What if they on't like the way I teach?  What if I have to keep one from falling in their tap shoes and the parents think I grabbed their kid too hard?  What if I slip on my own tap shoes and fall myself?

What if a kid pees on the floor?

Oh the things you learn on your first day.

"Teacher, look!"  The puddle was already there by the time my attention was caught.  My eyes went immediately to the shelf upon which might be paper towels but I saw none; no trash can either.  Time for plan B.

"Ok, go see mommy, it's ok, just go see mommy.  And let's all stay on this side of the room…"

I spent the rest of the class attempting to keep three year olds from stepping, hopping, and "snow-angeling" (is that a word?) in the puddle.  It's amazing how children migrate towards the things they should be avoiding.  But I guess we don't change all that much, even when we get older.  Whether it's eating food that's not so good for us, wasting time watching twenty hours of Netflix, or pure and simple sin, we chase after (or marinate in) things that are detrimental to us.  Worse still, the more we feed ourselves these things, the more we develop a taste for them.

"Oh honey, let's keep your feet out straight so they don't get wet!"  (Read: don't snow angel your feet into the puddle of urine.)

"What is it?"  (referring to said urine)

"Oh it's nothing, let's bunny hop."

I think we do this sometimes because our attention span is about as short as a three year olds and our vision just as limited.  God tells us something is not His best for us, but all we want to do is stomp around in it.  He's just being unfair, He's just a spoil sport.  We forget that our Creator knows what we truly need, and that when He gives us commands it is because He cares for us.

Thankfully, He is a gracious God Who hears our prayers.

"Ms. Courtney, did she have an accident?"

"Yes, but it's ok.  Sweetie I never mind if you have to go potty, just let me know next time."

"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.  Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity."  Psalm 141:3-4

I am really excited to work with these little ones, potty accidents or no, and I am looking forward to learning many, many lessons from them in the near future.  Pray that God will use me in their lives as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Diving Back In Amidst the Madness

It has been about two months or so since I last devoted any time to my blog.  I made no decision to stop writing, there was no grand event in my life that drew time or energy from me (unless you count writing my final paper for apologetics and moving out to my parents house)…

 I just.

Sort of.


Every time I tried to write felt like an upward battle, an actual, physical struggle, and rather than doing the wise thing by pushing through the block, I raised a white flag and gave up.  So here I am again, trying to remain faithful to my exercise in writing, hoping to be more consistent even when things get busy at my new job (woohoo!).

In June I was offered a position at a dance studio in Katy.  They are branching out into Fulshear (five minutes from my parents house, which I am taking care of while they are living in Egypt) and I will be teaching little ones ballet, tap, and jazz.  In spite of a few nerves (I haven't taken tap since I was about their age, 3, and I took a very small amount of jazz in high school) I am super excited at the opportunity to help these little ones learn how to dance.  My prayer is that the Lord will use me in their lives and the lives of their parents; that I will be a witness by patience and gentleness and that these things will give me the opportunity to share the reason for the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15).  Thankfully, the Lord can use even His most banged up and broken tools to do great things.

And our world is so broken.  The last few days have been sad, painful.  News of turmoil for the church around the world, the suicide of a beloved comedian, the murder of a close friend of one of the families

at my church…our world is not right; our world is damaged, and sometimes, even as the children of God, things seem hopeless.

In Jeremiah 50:6-7, the Lord says through His prophet,

“My people have become lost sheep;
Their shepherds have led them astray.
They have made them turn aside on the mountains;
They have gone along from mountain to hill
And have forgotten their resting place.
“All who came upon them have devoured them;
And their adversaries have said, ‘We are not guilty,
Inasmuch as they have sinned against the Lord who is the habitation of righteousness,
Even the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’

I think as the church we need to look to this passage and consider Israel's plight, especially in dark times.  God gave His people the land of Canaan as a place of rest.  Why was it their place of rest?  Certainly because the Lord defeated their enemies, of course because they were no longer slaves, and absolutely because He'd made them prosperous, but I think the deeper reason is because that is where He chose to reside in a very special way.  God is "the habitation of righteousness".  This word is often misunderstood, I think.  We view righteousness typically as a set of rules and regulations, or self-righteousness as prideful, holier than thou art living, but when broken down, righteousness means "the quality or state of being just or rightful."

Think about that.    

Injustice permeates our world with the blood of the weak and powerful alike.  Wrongness twists and bends the bones and joints of every aspect of life.  But in God righteousness lives and breathes.  All that is as it should be dwells within our Creator.  There is no shadow in Him.  Therefore, to reside in a land in which God's special presence had been placed meant to reside in a land of rest.  We can't rest when things are wrong, when we feel in our souls that things are bent and out of place.  It is only in the presence of the Righteous One that we are able to give up worry, and hope for the day when He has made straight that which we have made crooked.

It's hard to find space for this sometimes.  Our days are so full, crowded with things both meaningful and ordinary, but even in the chaos our souls can find rest in
prayer, in the remembrance of God's word, in the quiet whisper that so often reminds us that He is there.  I'll be honest, this doesn't always make everything ok right away; traffic is still frustrating, my sin still casts a shadow, and work is still sometimes hard, but it is like a deep gulp of air in the middle of a hard race.  You're halfway through and you just don't think you can keep running, your muscles burn, your joints are aching, and your lungs feel raw from exertion, but you see the crowds cheering you on and you take that deep breath sending oxygen to your blood cells and then, suddenly, you can carry on when you thought you were done.

Take courage, dear friends, and find rest in the Creator of all things, our "habitation of righteousness".