Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Freeing God from the "God Box"

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." - Isaiah 55:8-11

Ever watched people try to figure out God???? They try to peg Him into their notions of whatever it is that they think God should be and they put Him into this "God box" of sorts. You've seen it happen. These are folks who get bent out of shape when the offering is taken at a different place in the order of worship, or the pastor leaves out a poem from his sermon points. Or they only expect God to work or act in certain ways... according to their will -- not His. These are the same people who don't spend time building their relationship with God... They sit and expect God to do all that they ask of Him, but rarely spend any time getting to know Him. They create these boundaries for God, and whenever God decides to do something different -- perhaps outside the box, they get depressed and wonder if God truly loves them, doubt His existence, blame Him for self-imposed ills, and really become a mess.

The thought of some people opening up their imaginary "God boxes" makes me giggle. Seriously. It's like that old Warner Brothers cartoon, "The Singing Frog." You remember: the guy runs across a singing frog in a box. And whenever he opened the box, he heard, "Hello, my honey... hello my baby... hello, my ragtime gal!" As soon as the box is slammed shut the frog is silenced. The guy takes the frog to agencies, expecting to make a quick buck off of the frog, but the frog instead just sits there.... all frog-like... and does nothing.

The man desperately tries to make the frog sing in front of the agent. But to no avail. He dances, pulls out his hair, and pokes the box... All to make the frog dance and sing, but the frog will not cooperate. Then the minute he walks out the door and opens that box, the frog is singing at the top of his little froggy lungs. This goes on for a while and finally, the guy gives up. He puts the frog back in the box, slams the lid shut and leaves the frog for the next guy to come along.

We want God to show up when we need Him, but we don't want to take the time to know Him to build a real relationship with Him. (We don't build them with other people. Why should we build a relationship with the God of the Universe?) We have this notion that as long as God can fit into a small box the size of a Big Mac burger box, it's all good. We say grace, give God a "tip" on Sunday, show up for the Sunday morning services, shake hands with a couple of people, pat ourselves on the back, and feel we've done our duty for the day.... or for the week.

And God just sits in the heavens and laughs.

He knows we're going to call on Him, and when we do, He may or may not fix the problem. And when He doesn't answer at our beck and call or we try to figure Him out because He didn't do what we expected of Him (like some genie in the sky),we become whiney and grumpy. We blame Him for being the cause of the mess that we actually created. And sometimes we become downright mad at Him.... when we know all along that we are the one who has acted like the spoiled child.

Last Sunday, I heard a pastor say, "A god you can figure out is not a God who can save." Mull over that for a little bit... "A god you can figure out is not a God Who can save."

We spend a lot of our time as believers often trying to peg God and to put Him into this "God box"... and we open the box to let out a little bit of God whenever we desire a little bit of God. But when we're done with that little taste of God, we put Him right back in the box and
close the lid.

And Heaven forbid, if we let too much of God out of the box! The Holy Spirit might take control of us and we might just turn into some sort of fanatical crazies!!! So, we quickly slam the lid shut!

The really weird part is that we often hang onto the "God box." And that's about as ludicrous as hanging onto the box that once held your Big Mac last week... We don't like change. We don't want to get out of our settled patterns because we are afraid that God might actually do something in our lives. Or, worse -- He might expect something from us!!!!

So, how do we break out of this mentality of the "God box"? How do we release God from our ideas of what He should be and just let Him be God?

We spend time with God in His word:

"I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways."- Psalm 119:15

We hang out with Him... talk to Him:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray
standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell
you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you
pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matthew 6:5

We hang out and get to know the rest of His kids on the planet:

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." - Acts

We actively participate in genuine worship:


"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." - I Corinthians 14:26


"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:1-2

We listen to our hearts and when we're hungry for God, we fill them with Truth:

"As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You. You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship You." - Ps. 42:1

We throw away the junk -- "God box" and all -- and imitate God instead:

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up
for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." - Ephesians 5:1-2

We have a Servant's heart:

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men." - Ephesians 6:7

We let the Holy Spirit have complete control:

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is
life and peace." - Romans 8:6

Loose Him from that God Box!!! Let Him have the freedom to work in you and in your circumstances... Allow Him to move in your church the way that He wants to move, not from your own pre-conceived notions of what church is supposed to be. Expect God to do something that you could never accomplish on your own... and then let Him be God.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rabbi's Example: How Beautiful

"So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." John 13:4-5

I have some ugly feet. Seriously. I hide these toes of mine from the world because I don't want folks to see how ugly my feet are. I never wear open toed shoes. I cannot wear sandals or flip flops in the summer for fear that people would run screaming after seeing my sad piggies. I bathe them -- sometimes two or three times in a day! I use deodorant on them. Put medication on them. Wear socks nearly year-round. And still, I have these horribly ugly feet!

The journey for the Christ follower in the days of Jesus required travel by foot dirty, mud-caked roads on ordinary days. Most of the disciples were likely barefoot as they traveled, because only the wealthy owned sandals in those days. Even so, it was not uncommon to have feet coated in mud or animal droppings by day's end. So it was customary to have a servant to wash the feet of a guest in a home prior to a meal. On the night that Jesus washed the disciples feet, there was no servant offered. So, Jesus took a towel, wrapped it around His waist and began to wash the dirty encrusted feet of the twelve.

You remember the story. Peter even argued with Jesus (so what else is new?) about whether He would wash his (Peter's) feet. Jesus told him that if He couldn't wash his feet that he could have no part with Him. Then Peter told Jesus that He should wash his head and the rest of his body, too! (Isn't it funny that when God does some little something for us, we will respond much like Peter? Don't we either feel as if we are either a) too insignificant for Jesus to do something for us or to notice us, or b) we want Him to treat us as if we are all that and a bag of chips?)

Jesus promptly told Peter that he'd already had a bath. He didn't need to have his head washed again, and that his feet were what was dirty. So, Jesus washed Peter's feet. Stinky, nasty, dirty crusty feet....

And then, one by one, He washed the feet of all those in the room.... every last one of the feet of the twelve... 120 toes.... 24 heels.... all coated in who-knows-what. Can you imagine the Son of God digging mud out of the nail beds of His best loved friends? Can you imagine how humbled the disciples might have felt to know that their Teacher, their beloved Rabbi (the Son of God!) was seeing their bare feet (up close and personal), let alone taking the form of a servant, wearing a towel, and washing feet... their feet?

And let's face facts here. Those boys didn't smell like a bed of roses, either, just before dinner. No doubt, Jesus was coated in all of that stuff that they had stepped in by the time it was all said and done.

I often wonder when I've read this story as to how I would have felt had Jesus tried to wash my feet? How would I feel about revealing every ugly toe to the Master? How would I respond as He took a washcloth and attempted to wash away the scars from the burns I received on my feet as a small child (I stepped on both a floor radiator and hot coals as a two year old)? What would I do when He saw the fungus on my toes or the dry cracked skin on my heels? And oh my goodness, did I remember to shave that day???? Please tell me that I did!

How would He respond to my ugly feet??? I wonder whether this revealing would change things for us in some way... He's seeing the side of me that I keep hidden to the rest of the world. And while I know that He is omniscient, there is a part of me that thinks that maybe I can hide this from Him as well. And then when there is the thought of it being revealed to Him, it makes me cower in shame. I want to put my best foot forward, so to speak... especially for Him and with Him.... I don't want to coat Him with my stench!

And what would He think afterward about me? What would be His impression of me after He had cleaned my stinky nasty feet? Better yet, what would be my thought toward Him after He had washed my feet? Would the shame still be there? Would I make excuses as to why my feet look like they do? Would I try to place blame?

And that's not all! Jesus said we're to wash one another's feet! So, then I wonder what would happen if some of you got a towel, a washcloth and some Safeguard, and had to wash my ugly feet! I know some of you! You would definitely run away!!! Or you'd get sick with the smell. And what would you think of me then? Would you also try to cover the smell with something from Bath and Body Works? Would you then try to recommend a podiatrist for me? Would you try to ignore the smell and hope it went away and that you didn't get any on you? So much for impressions, huh?

I am being a little facetious here. But aren't we also that way when it comes to the rest of our lives? Don't we try to work so hard toward impressing others with our lives that we, too, really become what my pastor friend calls the "Plastic People"?

Plastic people. You've seen them. They lurk in every congregation. They are the ones with the painted smile, perfect hair, perfect clothes, and expensive perfume... and afraid to get someone else's odor on them. You never hear about any kind of awful crisis that they might be going through. And they don't ever get dirty. Life is just a joy to them. And there's a part of you that wants to slap them into some kind of reality if they say, "Blessings" to you just one more time!

Some of us are good at wearing the "church mask" that we put on when we walk through the doors of our respective congregations, aren't we? Or at least we think we are. But we're not fooling God. God sees our nail beds. He knows what's there. And what's lacking.

Why is there this innate need to impress? Or the need to "stay clean"? Why is there this feeling that we should not be real or that we shouldn't reveal the truth about ourselves to Him or to those around us??? And if we are truly following Christ's example, shouldn't there be a little dirt under our own nails from cleaning someone else's feet?

If He knows us, even as we are fully known, then why the pretending or hiding or the desire to only show the good parts of us? And why the lack of involvement in the lives of others?

I think I need a pedicure. And maybe a physician. Probably not in that order. Especially before any of you guys ever have to wash my feet. Or not. I may just buy me some sandals.

And then I may grab a towel.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another Giveaway!

Hey, Readers....

My friend, Vonda Skelton is giving away a $300 gift basket and a book from Cecil Murphy on her site, The Christian Writer's Den. The book is called, "When Someone You Love Has Cancer." It is designed for caregivers of those who are fighting Cancer (which is appropriate for some of us who are either walking that road, have walked that road or want something to put in our library to help minister to someone else.)

If you are interested, here is the link:


All you have to do is leave a comment on her site and be entered into the drawing.

Best wishes to you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

By Your Side - Tenth Avenue North

A friend shared this with me today. I thought this was appropriate for a lot of folks.


Monday, July 13, 2009

A Random Post...

Lest some of you think I have sorely neglected my blog, I decided to write a random-y vacation blog to catch you up on where I have been this past week.

We left on Wednesday morning for a mini-vacation on the East Coast. We drove from Middle Tennessee to Central North Carolina. There we spent Wednesday night with my husband's brother and sister in law. They took us to a terrific local restaurant called the Blue Mist. For those who are unfamiliar, this is one of those country-styled meat and three restaurants, where you'll find "creamed" potatoes on the long list of fresh veggies along with fried squash and sliced tomatoes... and the waitress calls you "Hun." It was awesome!

The next day, the four of us piled into the rental car and drove to Virginia. We made a quick stop for lunch and met up with some of my husband's family members. Then, we drove to Williamsburg, where we stayed for the next several days.

Funny story... On the way into Williamsburg, we got caught in some construction traffic. Our four lane route was down to one single lane for both directions. We had been traveling for several hours by this time and it had been a long time since our last pit stop. We were just a few minutes from the hotel and I was pretty sure I could last until then. Yours truly is known for having one of the world's smallest bladders. I am only five feet tall and most of my vital organs are about the size of a ten to twelve year old child... with the exception of my "girls"... but we won't talk about them. Everything on the inside of my torso is compact. And stuff sits on top of other stuff... like my ribs sit on top of my hips...even when I am skinny. And the cone-shaped muscle called the diaphram sits on top of my bladder. When I have to go, I have to go right then. And I often do a "little dance" when I am trying to make my way to the bathroom. HH calls it "duck walking." Anyhow, I think you get the picture.

I am also well known for laughing -- hard, loud and often. Those who know me personally know that when I start cackling, it becomes contagious and others often join in with the laughter. Having said that, however, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes when the laughter and the diaphram meet on top of a full bladder, disaster takes place.

Back to our little story. While we were waiting for our turn to get through the line, I made the comment that I needed to "go." Keep in mind that this line of traffic had not moved one inch in fifteen minutes. With that came a comment from the back seat (in jest) that they might decide to let the folks in front of us through and then stop the line with our vehicle and make us wait again. At that point, my loving husband (who was in the driver's seat) said (indirectly to the man in the vest who was holding the stop sign and to the one who made the comment from the backseat), "You'd better not (stop the line with us)! I'll have my wife wet on you!" (Ok. That wasn't quite the word he used. But I am trying to keep it clean.) I was in such shock that he said such a thing that I just lost it. So did everyone else in the car. That doesn't bode well on a full bladder. So much for going into the Williamsburg Marriott Residence Inn with dry undies...

On Friday, we met one of my close friends and her two very small boys (both are under age three) -- my "sister by another mother" -- and my two "nephews" -- at Colonial Williamsburg. We had a great time there -- seeing all of those historical sites and meeting some of the costumed interpreters. The boys were really too little to enjoy it much, but I certainly had fun seeing them and their mom. The oldest came to visit us along with his parents last summer for a week, and knows me already as "Aunt Bitsy." He is just starting to talk, and has stolen my heart. His little brother (he's eight months old) hasn't figured out what to do with me just yet (who has?), but I did get to hold him for a few minutes yesterday... and he seemed to warm up to me a bit then.

On Saturday, we met some more of my husband's family in Chesapeake, and ate dinner together at the place where senior adults rule: Golden Corral. HH and I were the youngest two in our group of eight... and because we didn't fit the senior category by a long shot, our host had to pay full price for us. I was the youngest of all.... I felt like a five year old!

After lunch, we sat around and talked and caught up as family sometimes does. It was a good visit. It was the first time that the aunts and uncles had seen my husband's brother and his wife since the death of my husband's parents in 2005. While we were talking, I had the treat of explaining to the group (the average age was 79) just what a "blog" is and all about the MID facebook group and the MID blog. I think they were still clueless, but nevertheless, we gave it our best shot.

On Sunday, we visited our former church in Hampton Va, Liberty Baptist Church. Liberty is a mega-church and is growing by leaps and bounds. God has been doing some amazing things there. The church has been without a full time worship pastor for the past year. They are taking their time in getting the right person for the job. Please pray for the worship ministry and those in leadership who are charged with filling the position.

Following the second service, we had lunch with some close friends and their families. One of the girls in the group at lunch is one of my former writing co-horts from Liberty. We wrote a couple of choir musicals together, along with our former worship pastor. She told me that she is in the process of writing a book about three generational families living together, and caring for elderly parents and children at the same time. I am really excited for her. This is a much needed ministry. She said her new book will be called, "Whose Diaper Shall I Change First?"

After lunch on Sunday, we drove back to NC to drop off the in-laws. When we arrived at their home, we found out that the power had shorted out while we were gone. Apparently, a small animal found the transformer the hard way. Yikes! Anyway, it knocked off the power. So, they had to wait for a few hours until it was fixed. In the meantime, we still had a long drive ahead of us today, so we found a hotel nearby and got some rest.

We drove back to Tennessee today and arrived home tonight at about 6 pm Central. My seventeen year old cat met me with a little bit of hesitancy. She wasn't crazy about being left behind to mind the store while we were gone. She is not letting me out of her sight right now, and I am doubting that -- if left up to her -- that I will be allowed to leave the house for the next 3 days.

Anyhow, we're back. And I will start posting more in the next couple of days.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Turning the "Stuff I am Gonna Do" Page

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:19-21

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

My husband, Bill, and I went to see the 3-D Disney/Pixar movie, "UP" today. The movie has been out in theatres for several weeks now. I love animated films and fortunately, God blessed me with two guys in the husband department who were serious comic book collectors. Thankfully, neither has been afraid to see animated films with me.

I won't give away the entire storyline for "UP" here because some of you may not yet have seen the movie. But I will give a brief synopsis. (Note: This all happens early so, I don't think I am spoiling anything for anyone who hasn't seen the movie.) The story is about Carl, who has lost his wife, Ellie after many years together, and a little boy named Russell who is trying to earn a merit badge for assisting the elderly. The movie chronicles the adventures of Carl and Russell. It is a beautiful story about love and adventure, and how sometimes the adventure is all about perspective.

The writers of "UP" did a great job of telling Carl and Ellie's love story with pictures... without words. I have to tell you that some of those pictures opened up some emotions relative to my first marriage that I haven't felt in a long time. And it surprised me that some of those feelings were still there, eleven years after Tony's passing. I certainly could relate to Carl's loss, although I was much younger at Tony's death. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I had a little bit of a pity party going on inside my head there for a bit. But in all honesty, I didn't stay there long. As the movie moved forward, I actually found myself rooting for Carl, and secretly hoping that he would finally turn a page in the adventure book!

Life is not easy. And God didn't promise that it would be. But one thing that I have discovered in the many ups and downs of my own life: God is trustworthy. He is faithful. That means that I can take things one day -- one adventure -- at a time. Why? Because He is for me... and if He is for me, who can be against me? (Rom. 8:31)

Are those adventures going to be exotic?? Probably not. More likely, they will be daily encounters with a small group of people that God has placed in my sphere of influence. And more than likely, they will consist of doing simple daily routines and perhaps with a crazy day thrown in just for fun every now and then. But one thing will be certain: the adventures aren't ever about me, so much as they are about bringing glory to God and about being a blessing to someone else.

And as long as God writes the script for my life, I can turn the page each day in confidence. Because whatever He decides for me (good or bad) is going to be worked out for my good. He has promised that. (Rom.8:28)

So where are you headed? What's the next page going to look like in the chapter of your adventure book? Whatever it is, go for it! Turn the page!

I'll leave you with the words of songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman, from his hit, "The Great Adventure":

Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze!
In the wild blue yonder of God's Amazing Grace!
Let's follow our Leader into the glorious unknown!
This is life like no other --
This is the Great Adventure!