Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Recognizing our Gifts

I really like to shop. Ok, maybe "love" is the more appropriate word here.  Funny thing is I am not a huge "buyer", I just love the shopping part.  I am actually a pretty frugal gal with Aldi, Forever 21 and TJ Maxx being some of the hot spots that top my most frequented list (clearance racks preferred..except Aldi, of course).

I love getting ideas browsing through Pottery Barn and specialty catalogs...maybe it's that I like making things more beautiful.  How about you?  Are you a shopper?  Of course, we are all "consumers" but some of us gain real joy in the hunt and card swipe.

Since I can think of no appropriate segway here's the point:  It occurred to me that my love for shopping is really a gift.  No really.  I know, most of us think of such a love as a curse.  (If we don't think it, our husbands sure may!)  Now, I'm not talking about overspending or living beyond our means...I am talking about the deeper layer, the things that bring us joy, the way we are wired.

What brings you joy?  Music, theatre, sports, teaching, exercise, the beach...shopping?  Did you know that is a gift?  Every good and perfect gift comes from above, dear friend!  (James 1:17) You and I are made on purpose, with purpose...with unique likes and dislikes, things that bring us joy and things that drain us. 

Of course, the context of shopping gets a bad reputation because of our sinful, lust-for-more side, has sent many of us over the edge into debt and using new purchases as a replacement for a deep connection with the living God. 

Satan, the enemy of our souls, loves to twist our joys...doesn't he?  Oh he SO knows their importance and power!

Let's take inventory.  A sure way to know our gifts is to take a look at what brings us JOY, what energizes you?  I know for me, some of my personal joy boosters are exercise, dance, teaching, being with people, laughing, writing and (as formentioned)...of course shopping. 

So how in the world are those gifts?!  I would not even know where to begin to share the meaningful talks about Jesus I have had with friends, precious time spent with Wes, songs sang with Alice, prayers prayed for friends and family...all while taking walks in the park for exercise. 

I have had opportunities to help friends and family shop who needed major shopping help and were either pressed for time or didn't know where to go or how to start... and have been thanking God for my help when we are done!   All because I love to shop.

We get so religious don't we? 

While the outpouring of our gifts is certainly no substitute for intimacy with Christ, there is revival for our spirits that comes from doing things that we love, things we were created for, and using those joys to bless others.  Using our gifts is a real and practical way the "joy of the Lord can be our strength" friends!  (Nehemiah 8:10)

Oh take a look at your joys, recognize your giftings, ask the Holy Spirit where to use them and change the world around you!  It gets me excited at just the thought...and I pray it does you too.  Let's continue to spur one another onto more good deeds...(Heb. 10:24)

I would love to hear what God shows you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rest for Us

My 2 year-old has been "down" for her nap for an hour now.  And even though we do this everyday, same time, same place, same book/song/prayer routine...today she is jumping and shouting in her bed rather than sleeping.

If you have kids, do they do this too?!  I'm sure a time or two.   I just want to do some "adult" reasoning with her and say (as she gives me interrupted eye contact and says Yes Ma'am unprompted) "Alice, most of us would do anything for an intentional daily nap time, even rest time!"  

I must laugh at myself at the thought of her doing something much more probable... like hanging upside down with hair in her face singing Dwingle Bells (aka Jingle Bells...yes, I know it's mid-January) while I "reason" with her.

What is it that makes me nuts about said situation? 

You see, by missing this rest time, my sweet girl has a much more difficult time listening to Mommy and Daddy as the evening progresses.  She will, most likely, have more hard disciplinary moments. Her concentration goes quickly in the negative direction and literally, her head spins.  Seriously, she twists her head from side to side looking like a human chopper.  Amazing.

Aren't we similar? I can relate with her, for sure.

The rebellion to resting reaps for us much the same as adults.

Although mine looks more "refined" and I certainly can pridefully hide it better, rebelling to rest is something I am mighty good at. 

If I'm really honest, "rest" for me is some sort of four letter word.  Ugh, I am such a production lover. Deep down I need some un-winding, re-teaching on rest, Lord!  

There is rest for the weary and burdened, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Notice, first, we must come.

That's what keeps me from resting the most often.  Answering the request to come.  Sure, I go to Him most mornings, and with the big things, emergent things, church prayer requests...etc.  But what about all those day to day, nitty gritty times when I feel just as Jesus describes... "weary and burdened". 

When Wes has been on call for days, Alice is not napping and I am weary? Come.  When finances are tight, relationships are stretched and I feel burdened?  Come.  What about at 3:30 in the afternoon when I don't know what to make for supper? Come. 

When I choose to come to my Lord, I find rest.  I can hear Him better, follow Him with ease. Kinda like my 2-year-old after a nice long afternoon nap. (which, btw, I don't think is happening today!)

Lord change us all at the heart- We don't want to be in the same place as a child, just walking it out in acceptable adult terms! Lord help us to press on to maturity on the area of rest so we can hear you more clearly and follow you more nearly!

God Bless you as you rest in Him!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Re-thinking Resolutions

And a Happy New Year to you! 

I have about decided I'm just not one to make New Year's resolutions.  Not that there's anything inherently wrong with them or anything, I just don't seem to stick with them.  Not even until the end of January, when I am left feeling slightly defeated and wondering..."what was I thinking in the first place?"

Are you like me?

Anyhow, while at the gym this week, I've heard all sorts of buzz on various morning shows about doing "self analysis" to kick off the new year, and after such analysis, seeing where your resolution would best fit.  By doing such analysis, one would know...aha! Weight loss, that's my goal! or Better money management in 2011! or More time with my family-that's my area of need!

Really, while I get where the various hosts and guest authors are going, I must ask...does such "self-analysis" produce fruit from a vine unchanged?

It's so easy to spot the problems (in ourselves, our spouses, children and co-workers so on and so on!).  We can easily point to..."Aha!  I have anger issues, and in 2011 I am going to get my anger under control!" feel good about that decision for about 25-30 days (hey, some of us can even make it to February on decision alone!) and then fall flat and... well, angry again before the snow clears in March.

What's the problem?  Where's the change? 

Now seriously, this is such a struggle, to release the areas we so desperately want to change into the loving and capable hands of Christ.  We want change NOW. 

We want to grab the reins, drive out those 10 pounds with low carb living, never addressing allowing our loving God to cultivate in us the long term fruit of self-control.  (Been there too many times to count people, it's better God's way, trust Him!)

Maybe we try the latest anger control technique we read up on, count to 10, breathe deeply while standing outside on our heads (or something like that)... and all the while the storm continues to rage within because we never allow the Holy Spirit to touch the unforgiveness and unmet expectations in our hearts.

Oh Lord give us patience to allow you to work in us in 2011!  Let your will be done!  Most often, turning over an area to God where we long for change is a painful, pruning, slow breaking process.  (ready to sign up?!)

The Good News, dear friends, when God does the work in us, from the inside out; when He first cleans the inside of the cup, the outside will be clean.  There will be the beautiful fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. 

So, instead of said "self-analysis" maybe we should cry out like David, asking the Holy Spirit to show us any offenses in us and undergo something that starts with a cry of "Holy Spirit, analyze me!"