Saturday, August 6, 2011

Made to Shelter

Frustration is not the will of God.  There is time to do anything and everything God wants us to do.                                                                                                                              ~Elizabeth Elliot

Have you ever dreamed you were on a merry-go-round and couldn't get off?  Around and around, up and down, playing the Joseph Polka in double time as you frantically wave to the conductor that you want to exit -- now?

That's how I feel sometimes when I try to accomplish all my obligations so I can race to do the fun things -- until even the fun things aren't fun any longer.  The more I race, the more people want me to do until I'm singing, I am happy in the service of the King; I am happy, oh so happy, in double time, feeling my smile slip a bit with each verse.

The Obstacles to Growth Survey found that on average, more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world say they "often" or "always" rush from task to task. And around 6 in 10 Christians say that it is "often" or "always" true that "the busyness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God".

Sometimes we just need to stop and figure out which activities are the most important.  Immediately we think all our "God-activities" should come first.  While I'm not suggesting God should come last, I do feel like sometimes our attitudes toward our part of God's work need to be reexamined.  Some good questions to ask ourselves would be:

1.  Is this project one that God placed on my heart or does it belong to another?
2.  Has God given me the talents to accomplish this activity?
3.  Is this activity man-breathed or God-breathed?

I serve a gracious God.  While He is relentless in His pursuit, He is considerate of our limitations.  I live intimately with Him, yet He does not expect me to do what He has called others to do.  If God wanted me to be a cookie cutter Christian wouldn't He have mass-produced man?  Instead, He "formed me in my mother's womb" -- uniquely me.  Me, with brown eyes and an overdose of shyness.  Me, with a love of books and all things written and a tendency to forget the dust on the cherry hall table while I read.  Me, with a desire for knowledge and wisdom and an inclination to search for a description of the basket Paul used instead of pursuing God's Word.  Me, with a passion for encouragement and a too-quick-judgement of those who live for themselves.  Me, with a disdain of surface feelings and a deep desire to understand the holiness of God.

I'm not perfect.  I would have been -- without the fall.  Instead, I was born with heaven and earth in my heart -- wanting to be perfect, yet living in a very human mind.   Thus the merry-go-round.  Trying to please everyone, yet failing to accomplish what my Maker desires from me.

I'm ready to climb off my galloping horse and walk in the path God chose for me -- the path that is tied to the promise, "I will go before you and make the crooked places straight." If we are on a path not intended for us -- a path straightened  for a friend, pastor or even a blogger we admire -- we cannot be assured God will make our pathway straight.

Only when I am strengthened and renewed by the sweet presence of God will I be able to choose God's path.  A presence I will take with me, to cover my activities and share with others.  Without the Holy Spirit I cannot expect God's plan to be effective.  I need off the merry-go-round to engage in God's priorities and internalize His joy so I can truthfully sing, "I am happy in the service of the King."

* * * * *

Carousel Fun

Listen to Carousel Music

Fix a  Carousel Snack

I got these animal crackers for the snack, but wasn't pleased with really can't tell they are animals at all.  I would suggest buying the original ones or the party ones with pink icing and sprinkles.

  • Bagel half
  • Peanut Butter  
  • Animal Crackers
  • Skittles  

 Color a Carousel Page

                            Bake a Carousel Cake

Buy a Carousel Gift

Monday, August 1, 2011

Prune me, Lord

It is the Word that prunes the Christian, it is the truth that purges him, the Scripture made living and powerful by the Holy Spirit—effectually cleanses the Christian. ~Charles Spurgeon

Mrs. Thompson (affectionately known as Ms Janet), the lady Emily is spending the summer with and working for, needed her bushes pruned.  When she found out Jonathan was a landscaper, she asked him to do the work for her.  Pruning is defined as cutting off or removing dead or living parts to improve shape or growth. It's really not as easy as it sounds.  I'm sure if I tried to shape a bush it would be horribly lopsided.  Jonathan, however, is trained to prune.

That's why we get in trouble trying to prune the hearts of others.  It's not our job.  The Master Pruner, God, who knows our hearts, knows just what to prune out of our lives.  He removes what is undesirable -- bad habits, wrong choices, ungodly practices -- so there is room for good growth.

A landscaper cutting off a branch or a twig or a stalk of your beloved bush seems painful. But in reality, if a gardener doesn’t prune the dead branches away, he is not really caring for the plant or tree in the best way possible.

We read, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  If He loves us that much -- enough to freely give His only Son -- then to not prune our hearts when needed would be contradictory to His Word.  

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says the following about these verses: “Here is the reason why we should neither neglect correction, nor faint under it: it is a proof of the fatherly love of God Almighty, and shows his most gracious designs towards us; from which we may be fully convinced that the affliction will prove the means of good to our souls, if we make a proper use of it.”

Our pruning may not be pleasant.  Pruning hurts.  But we must remember Hebrews:12:5-6 -- “Do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens.”

Our pruning tool is the Word of God. It's sword sharp and easily cuts away the unruly, unwanted growth -- “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews:4:12).  God uses other Christians to admonish us, as well as life's circumstances to prune weeds from our lives.

As I write this post, I want you to know I am not writing this at you.  As with all of my writings, they are born out of what God is doing in my life -- the truths He is teaching me.  

As God prunes me, I find it's the small cuts that hurt the most -- my attitudes, lack of joy, selfishness, bitterness.  I feel the pruning sheers cutting off evil surmising, jealousy and prejudice.   Max Lucado says that God loves us the way we are, but loves us too much to allow us to stay that way.  As a Christian I want God to shape my attitudes and desires. The more He prunes me the more I can be like Him. In allowing God to prune me I am yielding to the cutting away of religious facade.

God knows my potential.  He knows the lives I can touch.  But He also knows the heart weeds that will keep me from accomplishing His purpose through me.

And then, just like Jonathan had a special benefit to pruning Ms. Janet's bushes (seeing Emily in the middle of the week), so I will have the added benefit of lush new growth from God's pruning -- my spiritual life will become new and vibrant.  I can live an abundant and victorious life, knowing God will be faithful to get out the pruning sheers when I falter, when I tend towards legalism or lean closer to carelessness.  The vibrancy of the Holy Spirit's nudging to shelter will help Christ become more evident to those I shelter.  God has called me to shelter...  His pruning keeps me accountable.  And that makes me thankful -- and even more in love with my Heavenly Pruner.

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