Thursday, September 17, 2015

Springs in the Valley

Psalm 84 is beautiful.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should drop your computer right now and go find a bible and open it up to that passage.  Ok, since I don't want you to go breaking your computer on me, I'll just give you the passage:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
5Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.b
6As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
8O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
10For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

See what I mean?  So much goodness in there!  One part in particular, though, is really speaking to me lately.  Verses five and six say:

"5Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.b
6As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs."

Being the nerdy English major that I am, I had to unpack the figurative language in there.  Let start with the springs.  A spring is the place where water comes from.  There is a lot of water imagery in the Psalms.  Water is refreshing.  Water allows people, animal, and plants to live.  You could say it brings life.  Water represents baptism--entering a new life with Christ.  Water represents the Holy Spirit.  Water can be peace, or joy, or refreshment, or renewal, or change.  

 Then there is the valley.  A valley is usually referring to something bad.  Mountain tops usually mean success or good times or closeness with God.  A valley is in between the mountain peaks.  It could represent the good times between the bad.  The bible relates a valley to death and darkness.  A valley could be a place that seems far away from God.  A place where evil is occurring.  A place that is unholy, and broken.  

When I put that together, I read this passage as people who abide in Jesus can pass through a dark place, and make it a place that is life-bringing.  They get in the midst of hardships, and brokenness, and evil, and bring the Holy Spirit, and peace, and joy, and refreshment, and growth.  

That is my desire.  I desire to go to a broken place and bring life.  I desire to get my hands in the messiness and watch God's Spirit work.  I don't know what that will look like.  Maybe that means helping to bring hope to a broken school.  Maybe that means bringing the Holy Spirit to a bad part of town.  Maybe that means moving to the inner city and interacting with the poor, needy, and broken.  

All I know is that God has given me a desire to go through the valley and make it a place of springs.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Am Not Enough

Dear Students,

I am not enough for you.  Every day I come to school with carefully considered plans.  I do my best to allow you to move--because I know you need it--to give you opportunities to share yourself, to make sure that you get what we're learning.  Even if you are still learning English.  Even if you have a learning disability.  Even if English is just tough for you the way that Math is tough for me.  Yet I look into your needy eyes and I am so aware of it.  You are desperately seeking love.  I know because you tell me your stories.  I know because you act out in class.  I know because, if I'm honest, I'm desperate for love and attention just like you.  Students, even though I wear myself out every day trying, I cannot give you the love that you are looking for.  Only Jesus can do that.  So, I pray that one day you will meet him.  That you will know, feel, experience his love.  That his grace will soak into all your broken places and make you whole.  But until that day, I will keep trying to show you just a glimpse of him.  I will pray over your desks.  I will smile at you and greet you at the door.  I will try my best to listen to your stories, to help you grow, and to not lose my patience with you.  And on that day when I let you down, I will remind myself that it's okay, because though I am not enough for you, my Jesus is more than enough.


Your (especially-tired-this-time-of-year) Teacher

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Would you like a slice of humble pie with that?

If you are feeling sad about how small your bank account is this month, the Lord just might put someone who is experiencing homelessness in front of you at church.  If you are annoyed with someone, the Lord just might use that person to pray for you.  In short, Jesus ain't afraid to serve you up a slice of humble pie when you need it.

Sometimes, what I get out of church has very little to do with the sermon.  I have recently been grieving our financial situation.  You see, Philip got a very small summer school paycheck last month.  He won't get his real teacher paycheck until the end of September.  That means roughing it for a couple of month.  Plus, little expenses come up.  Or maybe they're little to you.  They would have been little to me a few months ago, but at this point they felt colossal.  In a serious of freak events we had two flat tires in a row, which added up to a bill of close to $400.  To top that off, Philip and I have been irresponsible with our budget lately.  We've gotten used to having money.  If we wanted something, we bought it.  (okay by we, I mostly mean me).  If we wanted to go do something that costed money, we did it.  Because we usually have money.  This lead to draining our savings and even some of our Emergency Fund.

Fast forward to church.  I looked up and I saw him.  A young man who I know is currently living in a car.  Philip met him a couple of Sundays ago, and he spilled his guts about everything he was going through.  Seeing him sitting in front of us wrecked me.  I began to weep. This time, not in sorrow for my poor self, but mourning my selfish, materialistic heart.

Then, I knew I wanted to ask for prayer because the school year was coming and I was experiencing a lot of fear.  I looked up and saw her.  A woman who got on my nerves.  I didn't have a reason in particular.  It was just something about her that seemed fake to me.  She was the woman nearest me on the prayer team.  Everyone else quickly filled up, yet she was available.  That's when I knew that God wanted me to get prayer from her.  So I reluctantly made my way to the front.  She began to pray for me and I felt encouraged and loved.  My hope for the school year was restored.

Jesus gently reminds me when I am kind of being a brat.  I'm thankful that he doesn't just let me go on being prideful.  He often turns my perspective upside down.  He disciplines when I need it.  What a good dad.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

"Through you the mute will sing."
-Newsboys' song, "I Am Free."

Isn't that just like our God?  He doesn't just make the mute speak, although that would be miraculous enough.  No, he doesn't stop there.  He makes the mute to sing.  He says, "You can't speak?  Not only will you speak, but you will sing.  Not only will you sing, but you will sing praises to me."  

Someone very dear to my heart has mild cerebral palsy.  There was a time when doctors told her she may never walk.  That's just not her story.  She is one of the best dancers that I know.  Her body moves so fluidly and naturally.  Not only that, but she teaches dance as a way to minister to children.  It's as if God said, "They say you can't walk?  Not only are you going to walk, but you are going to dance!  Not only are you going to dance, but you are going to use your dance as a ministry to me."

God doesn't just come into our lives and do a minor surgery, he raises us from the dead!  He doesn't just shift our direction a little but he causes us to do a one-eighty.  In my own life he has said:

"You feel worthless?  Not only will I show you how loved you are, but I am going to use you to show others how loved they are.  You will call out value in those who feel as worthless as you once felt."

"Your parents are divorced?  You are going to have a healthy, happy marriage.  Your marriage will bless others and show an example of my love."

"You and your sister don't get along?  I am going to make you best friends.  You will encourage and strengthen one another.  You will draw each other closer to me"

"You are bitter against your father?  You will forgive him and minister to him in my name.  One day he will enter into relationship with me.  You will enjoy being around him."

So if I were to contribute a verse to the song it might read like this:

Through you the disabled will dance.
Through you the broken will heal.
Through you children of divorce will flourish in marriage.
Through you enemies will become friends.
Through you bitterness will become love.
Through you my heart screams, "I am free."

I can't wait to see what other one-hundred and eighty degree transformations the Lord has in store.  What has he done in your life?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Girl of Sorrows

I am a cryer.  I am tender-hearted.  I am sensitive.  If we are friends in real life, odds are I have had to tell you that at some point.  Because the tears start flowing at awkward moments sometimes, and I feel as though if I don't explain myself people are going to prescribe me Prozac.  This detail has been the thing I've most often wished to change about myself.  (Unless we count Junior High where I most often wanted to change my cup size, but I got over that).  People get uncomfortable around crying.  Even my husband, man of great love and great intentions, still sometimes freezes up and doesn't know what to do in the sight of emotion.  Anger, he gets.  Disgust, he gets.  Sadness?  He doesn't always know what to do with that.  And he is not alone.

Did you see Disney's latest movie Inside Out?  The whole premise of the movie is that we live in a culture where happiness is the ultimate goal.  We can feel pressure to be happy all the time, to put a positive spin on things, to always look on the bright side of life.  The main character, Joy, can see the purpose of other emotions.  Anger helps us to stand up for what's right.  Disgust keeps us from being poisoned.  Fear keeps us safe.  However, to Joy, sorrow seems to have no purpose and just make everything worse.  Oh, Joy, I can relate.

One Sunday during the worship through music portion of the service I was praising God.  Like many a Sunday, I began to cry.  Once I started I couldn't stop.  What I couldn't express to God through words, I could pour out as tears.  I felt overwhelmed by his presence, by his great love for me.  I was thanking him and crying out to him and sharing my burdens with him all through the tender act of crying.  Then I heard his voice whisper, "Would you really want to give this up?"  I knew instantly what he meant.

 Through reflection over the years I have realized that my primary emotion is sorrow.  It is my natural response to turmoil of any kind.  Tears come easily to me.  All the times that I had wished to be different I hadn't realized what I would be losing.  Were I to be free from those moments when I make people uncomfortable by crying, my most pure, tender, sweet form of worship would also be lost.

Even though I have long despised it, I believe my sensitivity is a gift from God.  Sure it ruins even designer mascara, and I have to work to not take the mean things my teenagers sometimes say personally, but it has its perks.  For one, I can't help but be vulnerable with others.  If I begin to talk about how I'm doing I will often start to cry and have to spill my guts.  Being vulnerable with others frees them up to be vulnerable with me.  That is how closeness happens. On top of this, I am learning to weep with those who weep.  Likewise to crying about my own schtuff, as I listen to others share their hardships tears start to build in my eyes.  I have had friends tell me how that has made them feel understood and cared for.  Best of all, I can enter into a deep form of worship.  I don't really know how to explain it.  Crying in the presence of God is like a special place that I can enter into where I can express things to him that my words cannot.

It is okay to be sad.  That's not to say that we should let ourselves wallow, or fall into hopelessness.  But sadness has its benefits just like any other emotion.  Everything in me was designed on purpose, for a purpose.  God was intentional in the choices he made when he created me--my sorrow, my tears are no exception to that.  The bible says "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy," and "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."  Towards the end of the movie *Spoiler alert* Joy starts to see the benefit of sadness.  She sees that it helps us to have empathy for others.  She sees that it helps us process life's hardships, and ultimately, move on from them.  I too have begun a process of seeing the value of sadness and tears.  And you know what, I wouldn't change myself if I could.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...