Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Carpet Cleaning for Dummies

The grunts and groans could be heard throughout the house as she wrestled the heavy vacuum down the stairs to her basement bedroom with the bright pink walls. After having just spent the better part of an hour picking up her room, all the while grumbling under her breath for having to clean her room on a Saturday, even though this Saturday was no different than every other single Saturday she had spent for the past few years of her life, she was now indeed ready to vacuum. She knew her mom would not stand for cutting corners. The room simply must be vacuumed, and there was no way to avoid it. As much as she had originally dreaded it, now that she had indeed lugged that awkward machine down the steps, it was time for the easy part. She plugged it in, she grabbed her tool, and she began to brush. Working furiously on her hands and knees while the vacuum whirred beside her in it's soldier-like pose, she used her hair brush to carefully and systematically brush that pink shag. Feeling that enough time had passed, and enough pink shag had been brushed to give the illusion of a freshly vacuumed floor, she turned off the vacuum, wound the cord, and cleaned the carpet fibers out of her hairbrush. In similar fashion to the previous wrestling match, she managed to get the machine back up the stairs and into its closet. Upon hearing the closet door shut, her mom called out, "Did you get your room finished?" Quick with her reply, the girl proudly answered, "Yep! I even vacuumed it!" And off she went about her day, knowing full well that brushed shag looks just like vacuumed shag.

Yes, I am she. Yes, that is a true story. Yes, I did that multiple times as a 12-ish-year-old child. (Sorry, Mom. I lied to you. I was only brushing my carpet.) Yes, I am a dork. I know.

I was reminded of that old, long-buried (thankfully temporary) bad habit of mine today, when talking to my mother-in-law about a radio sermon she had heard on the subject of parenting. I'm not even sure now why I brought it up and actually admitted to it while we were on the phone, but needless to say, she had a pretty good chuckle over it. And really, who wouldn't?? Seriously, even at age 12-ish, did I really think that was less work than just vacuuming? Did I really think that was a good idea? Could I have possibly been that lazy, arrogant, conniving, and stupid? Really??

Then it hit me...isn't that what we are all doing much of the time in this earthly lifetime? Aren't we pretty much just looking for the easy way out while doing more work than we need to?

Take women, for example...we color our hair, tweeze our eyebrows, get facials, paint our toenails, shop for the perfect necklace to match our new shirt, put on makeup, take diet pills, ask for the salad instead of cheesecake, curl our hair, straighten our hair...when the Lord really says to us, Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1st Peter 3:3&4 Aren't the beauty treatments more work than just being quiet and gentle? Why must we do all that extra work?

Or take men, for example...they polish their cars, drive fast, drive loud, buy a new boat, trim their lawns, suck in their guts, puff up their chests, pass out cigars, practice their swings, check their stocks...when the Lord really says to them, Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1st Thessalonians 4:11&12 Isn't keeping up with the Joneses more work that just leading a quiet life and working with your hands? Why must they do all that extra work?

Or take most of us, at some given point in life, for example...we doubt the Lord, we worry, we whine, we strive, we run from His will, we complain, we beg for our own way, we try to lead, we object, we ignore His voice, we grow impatient...when the Lord is really saying to us,
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; Psalm 37:5-7a
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Wouldn't it just be easier to trust Him in the first place? To stop lying, to stop competing, to stop cutting corners, to stop crouching down next to a whirring vacuum with a hair brush in our hands, and just do the simple task in front of us? God has called us to live victoriously, to live joyfully, to live simply, to live humbly. He has called us to honesty and realness. He has called us to do the hard job of following His commands and His will, without making it harder on ourselves by falling into the traps of laziness, arrogance, conniving, and stupidity. And the beautiful thing is that if we would simply simplify and trust Him, He promises peace, power, unfading beauty, and the respect of outsiders! (Just to name a few.)

I am no longer on the floors with a hairbrush in my hands. But all too often, I am still arrogantly cutting corners. I need to grab the vacuum and just do the job. Will you join me?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Confessions of a Drama Queen

"FINE!! Then I am never coming out of the garage again!!" The emotional torrent rained from my daugter's mouth as she stood in gritted defiance at the doorway, watching me take her sister's favorite toy back into the house. "Then I'll never have any fun again!!" she declared as I calmly shut the door in her angry face and walked away. Dare I say she is a Drama Queen? There's just no pleasing her, was my thought as I chuckled at her futile attempt to control her own way, knowing all the while that I did indeed know what was best that day.

As the all-powerful Mom raising an emotionally dramatic daughter, I see the futility of it all. I see the big picture, I see the waste of energy, I see that the reality to which she is responding every time she acts that way is truly for her own good. I am teaching her something important every time I calmly walk away from her attempts to control what is best for her without her possibly understanding enough to even know what is truly best for her. I love her so much despite the tyrades and tears. Her failure to trust my wisdom and guidance do no diminish at all the deep love I feel for her. It makes perfect sense to me, even though it may make no sense to her at the time. And I have never failed to see her come back inside the house, or eat again, or drink again, or have fun again, despite whatever desperate threat she may have made. I have the privilege at smiling at what she thinks is hopeless and terminal. Her red-faced frustration. Her helpless feelings. Her frustration. The futility of it all. It is all so very five-year-old.

Or is it?

I spent from June 2001 through June 2008 either pregnant or breastfeeding. Literally, I was pregnant, gave birth, nursed, weaned, got pregnant, gave birth, nursed, got pregnant, weaned, gave birth, nursed, weaned, got pregnant, gave birth, had my tubes tied, nursed, and then finally weaned baby #6. I have spent a total of 43 months lactating for my babes over my lifetime as a mother, and even longer getting up in the night for a child. Even when the most recent babe had been weaned and was finally sleeping, I would be so pregant again that I could hardly buy a decent night's rest. Let's just say that I, like many Moms before and yet to come, I was tired. Dog tired.

"That's it! I'm never going to feel rested again! I'll never have a decent night's sleep again! I'm going to die exhausted!!" I may have said that once or twice....or a thousand times. I may have stood in gritted defiance spilling an emotional torrent in my bedroom doorway as the current dependant babe had awoken me again. Maybe I did that.

OK, I so totally did that. I am a Drama Queen too.

Now that my youngest is three years old and has been weaned for two years, she sleeps like a champ, and I sleep like a log. I would venture to guess that I am only wakened in the night an average of once month, maybe even less. Sure, my Mommy Radar is tuned so well that if my bedroom door even sweeps across the carpet my eyes pop open, but I have learned to otherwise sleep so soundly and peacefully that I oftentimes will sleep right through a thunderstorm. It is delicious.

And I now fully understand that when I would throw my immature, sleep-deprived fits in the middle of the night, the Lord was just sitting up there smiling down on me, in all His wise glory, calmly seeing the futility of it all. He saw the big picture, He saw the waste of energy, He saw that the reality to which I was responding every time I acted that way, was truly for my own good and the good of my babies. He was teaching me something important every time He calmly and quietly sat by me during my attempts to control what was best for my family, without me possibly understanding enough to even know what is truly best for me. He loves me so much despite the tyrades and tears. My failure to trust His wisdom and guidance do not diminish at all the deep love He feels for me. It all makes perfect sense to Him, even though my trials may make no sense to me at the time. He has the privilege at smiling at what I think is hopeless and terminal. My red-faced frustration. My helpless feelings. My frustration. The futility of it all.

For we know in all things the Lord works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I praise God that I am at least smart enough to worship a Father who loves me despite me, and who is always working my life's details out for my good. He is so glorious that way. I pray you know that as well. Have a blesssed day, fully trusting Him, and no tantrums allowed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Returning to the roadside

Remember when I said that there was so much more to be learned from our new friend Baritmaeus? Let's return to his roadside...

I live in the wealthiest nation in the world in a time when acceptance of others runs rampant. I have a husband who loves me, six healthy children, an air-conditioned home, an adequate wardrobe that includes 3 pairs of flip-flops, and a decent face to look at (or so I have been told). I am fortunate beyond worth. But sitting in stark contrast to my incredible health, wealth, and family, is the blind man Bartimaeus, whom we just encountered in my last post. Allow me to refresh your memory. Mark 10:46...Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.

Was Bartimaeus blind from birth? We don't know. Was he a young man, or was he going grey? Again, we don't know. What we do know is that Bartimaeus was born in a time when physical defect was a thing of shame. In his day, being blind was a source of perpetual rejection, a cause to call into question the role of sin in his life, and was a curse that had driven our buddy Bart into a lifetime of begging. He could not work. There were no government programs to help him, unlike our modern times today. Bartimaeus was forced to sit by a roadside, a man of perpetual rags and filth, and beg for any ounce of kindness or mercy that may be offered from the very members of society who daily rejected him. I am sure it was not a pretty picture.

At the very minimum, reading even one verse about Bartimeaus should cause us all to stop and thank the Lord for the abundant blessings in our lives. Do you have health enough to work? Praise the Lord! Are you well fed, even perhaps too well fed, are you warm at night, and do you feel safe in your home? To God be the glory! Do you have family and friends who love you? Then say hallelujah! Even if you can only answer yes to just one of those questions, you are more fortunate than our new friend Bart.

Praise. the. Lord.

Let's go one step further on this journey with Bartimaeus, and see what else we can learn from this encounter between a social reject and our Living Lord. Mark 10:47 & 48...When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Did you catch that?! He began to shout! I imagine Bartimaeus waving wildly in his total blindness, perhaps in a complete frenzy, not even knowing the exact place where Jesus was, but knowing that He was there. Bartimaeus was shouting Jesus' name in passion and desperation. He would have been causing quite a scene.

When was the last time you shouted to the Lord? When were you so desperate for Him that you took no heed of your self-consciousness or of who might hear you, and shouted to the Lord? Was it yesterday? Last month? Once a really long time ago? Have you ever done that? It would be easy to blame our lack of passionate desperation for the Lord on things like modern society, political correctness, and personal inhibition. We're conditioned to keep our desperation to ourselves, to keep our faith quiet, to keep our weaknesses tidy. (I've been doing it recently, for weeks, in fact.) But what we all have to remember is that Christ wants to hear us shout His name. He wants you and I to turn to Him in our weaknesses, our desperations, and our heartaches. He wants us to shout out to Him without fear of rebuke or embarrassment. And I'll prove it. Continuing in Mark 10, verse 49a...Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."

Bartimaeus shouted, Jesus responded. It's that simple.

Continuing with verses 49 & 50...So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

I love that response!! Bartimaeus threw his cloak and jumped up at the invitation by Christ! He was ready! He probably ran right to Jesus. Now, I asked you already when you last shouted at Christ, but how about this...when was the last time you ran to Christ? Was it yesterday, last month, ever? Have you ever literally jumped up, throwing aside whatever you were holding onto at the time, and ran to your Savior when He called? My friends, Jesus Christ is calling to each of us every day. At the minimum, He is calling us all to know Him better, calling us to repentance, calling us to obedience, calling us to more joy, calling us to love others just a little better than we do on our own, calling calling calling. And for some, He may be calling in a very specific way, like calling you to take on a new challenge at church. Or you may be being called to change jobs. Or to follow Him into ministry. Or to forgive someone who wronged you. Maybe you've heard that little voice in your head and pushed it aside, pretending it was nothing, rationalizing all the reasons why you can't possibly do that. Wrong.

If Jesus is calling you, you must jump up and answer Him. Today. Now. Right now.

I know I am like Bart, in that I have been calling, not always shouting but definitely calling out to Jesus, but in some ways I have not fully jumped up and ran to Him because He is not yet fully answering me. Anyone relate to that?? I think God actually likes to do that to us, you know; to bring delays to our questions. Like He wants to see just how badly we really want it, or how loudly we'll actually shout to get it, while He makes us wait until we are truly ready for it. He is so very wise that way. But taking our lesson from Baritimaeus, we are supposed to shout all the more! Bartimaeus knew Christ was there, even though he did not have eyes to see Him. He knew Christ had the power, even though he could not feel it yet. He had faith. He had the faith that Christ could remove his blindness, and he had the persistence to go after it.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Bartimaeus could not see, but he was certain.
Bartimaeus lived a life totally void of hope, but he was sure.

Mark 10: 51 & 52..."What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

I cannot pretend that God will heal every problem if we ask, or that He will fix our ailments, or make us perfect, just by our shouting. What I can state with confidence, however, is that our faith is our key to true healing. Our faith is Christ's desire for us. Sometimes, our faith is all we have. Even though we cannot predict the will of God and the outcome of our requests, we must take a lesson from Bartimaeus and ask anyway. In fact, we must be willing to shout. We must be willing to wave blindly toward the spot we know Christ is standing, even though we cannot see Him. We must open our ears to Christ's voice, and we must throw our cloaks aside and jump to our feet if He calls. We must follow Him along the road.

To God be the glory.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shouting at Jesus

At the end of an extremely long day at a baseball tournament yesterday, I came home to face my cluttered house. Between VBS and baseball games and the pool and six kids being home from school, I am, to say the least, a tad behind on housework. The little boys' bedroom looks like ground zero for WWIII, and the kitchen counter is all-too-often made to match. It was in this array of messy-ness that I found my husband's Bible laying on the counter last night, and decided to stop what I was doing, carry it to our bedroom, flop on our bed, pick up my own Bible, and have a fast 3-minute read. Lacking any specific source of direction, I turned haphazardly to the Gospels and landed in Mark 10, and found myself reading about Blind Bartimaeus. I once preached on this passage and it was a real refreshment to read it again. I love the way Bartimaeus "shouted all the more"...

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more [emphasis mine], "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52

Smiling at the refreshing of this story in my memory bank, I flipped haphazardly and randomly forward, and landed in Luke 18. I was stunned. Laying there, right in front of me, was the story of the blind beggar (unnamed in Luke) that reads like this...

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. Luke 18:36-43.

As I sat on my bed in stunned silence, all I could do was start laughing. He is so funny! In my oh-so-very-human experience, there are moments when God feels unreachable, distant, and like He may not be anywhere in my zip code, let alone my bedroom. Of course I know He is always right there, that He never moves, and that the distance is either my own fault or His own purposeful and trustworthy silence. But then there are times when He makes Himself so known to me, it is as if He were sitting right on the bed beside me, flipping the pages of my Good Book with something other than my careless randomness. That was last night for me. So, as I sat on my bed and laughed, I knew, I just knew, that accidents like this do not happen. Jesus Himself was trying to tell me something. I looked at the cross that hangs on my wall, and said, outloud, "What are you trying to teach me, Lord?"

I have been in a tremendous funk lately. Lately being something like a few weeks. Tremendous being, well, tremendous. So great that I allowed a over full week to pass without reading my Bible (perhaps more), I have been yelling at my children far too much, I have been on the brink of tears much of the time, and I have felt the Lord nowhere on my radar map. And I have been hiding all of it, so if anyone reading this is a friend of mine and you are now surprised to read it, sorry. I have been burying my funk, putting on a happy face, and going home to cry. And the whole thing has me totally blindsided, since I am a summer girl and I should be in a wildy summery good mood. Wierd, I know. Anyway, I've been searching my mind and heart for the root cause for my funk, coming up with nothing short of a bevy of reasons. Perhaps it is the adjustment to summer schedules and the near-constant demands on my patience by my children. Perhaps it is that when I have a big project going, my house turns into a mess far greater than my ability to tolerate. Perhaps, for some reason I cannot necessarily explain, I miss (make that ache for) the companionship and comfort of my nightjob husband more than I have in a very, very long time. Perhaps it is all the mud from all the spring rains here in NE Nebraska. Perpahs I am just tired of waiting on things to be "better" or "easier". Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Whatever the cause of my odd-timed depressed state, the end result has been distance from God. I have moved. Changed my zip code. Fairly well believed that the Lord must have forgotten me and my plight. How dumb is that?? Has anyone else ever done that??

So, when He met me in my bedroom last night, and so unexpectedly and undeservedly surprised me with a coincidence of supernatural magnificence, I was stunned. I don't deserve His special attention! I don't deserve a personal message! I've done nothing other than whine, complain, and beg for rescue from Him for weeks, and I deserve nothing other than a time-out for my childish behavior. But, as only our loving and gracious Lord could do, He showed up anyway. Praise Him.

My friends, I think I have said it before, but God is not failing to notice what we are going through. He knows what is getting the best of us. He knows what we are waiting and longing for. He knows what is breaking our hearts and tormenting our emotions. Just like He knew Bartimaeus before one word between them was spoken, He knows our names and knows our pains. The lesson that is ringing in me from the passages He gave me to read last night is this: Shout all the more. Be persistent. Even when others around you, or your worst enemy, or your own mind are rebuking you and telling you to be quiet, keep shouting at Jesus. He will hear you above the crowd. Be willing to throw off your cloak and run to Jesus when He calls your name. Tell Him what you want and in faith, allow Him to do whatever it is He wants to do for you. But never, ever, ever stop shouting.

I feel that there is so much more to say about this coincidence, that there are so many other deeper lessons laying in these passages, but, for now, I am going to stop there, and just say it again...shout all the more. Don't be silent. Shout at Jesus.

He will stun you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

putting me to the test

I just spent 90 mintues typing what I thought was a fairly good and entertaining enough post on choices and focusing on the positive. I had a story about my irrational Drama Queen daughter. I liked the post.

It failed when I tried to publish.

Is God testing me, asking me to put my money where my mouth is, or is the enemy messing with my joy?? Arrgh.

Focus on the positive. Focus on the positive. Focus on the positive. (say it with me...) I guess a new post will have to wait. Good night! (The time stamp will say something like 9:00 but it is actually 12:21 am.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy campers, the signs of summer, and the high seas!

So, it has been over a week since my last posting, and I must admit, I am a little stressed about that. I don't know why. Maybe I am living with the fear that my readers (how many or few there are) will abandon the habit of checking the blog if they believe I have given up posting. Or maybe I am uncomfortable with silence. Or maybe I am still adjusting to having six kids home from school for summer vacation, and all the work that goes into patiently tending to them while driving a van to every town in a 60 mile radius for baseball games and planning a VBS for 100 children. All at the same time. Maybe that is it.

Nah, I am just uncomfortable with silence.
Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a whiner, I have, admittedly, been a tad busy these past three weeks, and so, unfortunately, posting on a regular basis has fallen by the wayside. Tonight, however, I am dusting off the blog for a little show and tell to share some photos with you, until I can fully catch my breath after VBS and finally formulate a cohesive thought. So, while my brain recharges, enjoy a slice of my life...

The faces of five happy campers (and one tag-a-long little sister/cousin) as I was dropping off two of my kiddos for their first time at Bible camp. From the left, my daughter Emma age 5, my daughter Kendall age 2 (jealous), my nephew Eli age 5, my nephew Thomas age 7, my son Cole age 6, and my nephew Nathan age 6. Lord help those counselors, they had Cole, Nathan, and Eli all in the same place.

God lovingly reminding us of His promise in my front yard earlier this month. Lord, please help all the flood victims around the nation this past week!

Now for a itty-bitty taste of Wausa's recent "High Seas Expedition" Vacation Bible School of which I happened to be the Director...
See that dork up on stage, er, I mean, on board the ship, dancing and twirling like she is somebody special?? Yea, that would be me. Remember me?? I am that dork. And as she, I am one of the few people in Wausa who is dorky enough to stand up in front of 100 children, a few dozen teens, and a couple dozen adults, to lead all the music for VBS. I may have said it before, but I wear my dorky-ness with pride. (And, no, I am not pregnant. It is a poofy shirt.)

This is my son Jonah age 8, waiting with eager anticipation for the permission to DIVE IN to his pony bead whale key chain craft. Sweet-ness.

All kidding around aside, our VBS this week was stunning, and I was reminded yet again what an absolute privilege it is to lead another person, no matter their age, in their faith walk. And yet, I know for certain that in the months and weeks leading up to VBS this year I did more than my fair share of complaining about the work load that comes with Directing. It was tedious. It was stressful. It was dominating the lion's share of my thoughts and time, all while my hubby, my children, my home, my sons' baseball games, my garden, my yard, my...you name it...all of those were clamoring for attention as well. And so how did I handle it?? Like any die-hard whiner, I whined. As ashamed as I am to admit it, the Lord heard a decent dose of complaints and whines from me, especially on the day I was doing computer prep-work and my daughter decided that was the day to have a potty accident, tromp through the mud, and dump a box of cereal on the kitchen floor. "Seriously, Lord?! You can't bind the enemy for even two hours while I work on your Bible School?!"
Yes, I actually said that to Him. It was a proud moment for me.
The great and glorious news is that, in spite of this World-Class Whiner and Captain of the Dork Squad, our Lord once again proved faithful and worked out every detail with nothing but His splendor and grace. The kids came smiling. No one bled, not even once. The committee and fellow teachers pitched in and helped not only me but each other. The music rocked. The decorations rocked. The teachers rocked. The whole week rocked.
And as I sit back, still catching my breath and attempting to catch up on housework, the only solid feeling I can really put my finger on is privileged. I am privileged to be in service to the Lord's children, young or old. I am privileged to be just dorky enough to be willing to stand on a stage every day and lead music, and by the end of the week listen to 100 exuberant children, 3 dozen teens, and more than 2 dozen adults praising the Lord with their hands in the air. Its' a thing of beauty, and I am truly privileged. (And I am ashamed of all the whining. When will I ever learn??)
Thanks to everyone who trusted me with this job yet again, and who helped me along the way. I apologize to anyone who heard me whine.
Ahoy, Matey!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mastering the art of accomplishment

I was not going to blog tonight. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to blog tonight, very much, but the stained carpet in our "art room-back entrance-mud room-catch-all room" was too much to bear, and its utter grossness had created in me such a burst of energy that the carpet cleaner was cowering in the corner for fear of how hard I was going to make it work. As I tied up the other loose ends of my day, a rush of excitement was coursing through me, thinking of how nice I would be to wake up to a cleaner carpet that had already dried, and my mind wandered to the topic of accomplishment. I must admit, I have been struggling lately with the art of accomplishment. "Lately" being the past two weeks. Pretty much just as long as the kids have been home from school. And baseball season has been in full swing. And the countdown to VBS has been ticking. Pretty much ever since my plate went from normal to Big Mac, have I struggled to get a dern thing done. Like dishes, laundry, cooking, dusting, gardening, or sleeping. It just ain't happening. But, tonight was going to be the night! I was going to accomplish a task while the kids slept, and nothing could stop me, not even the blog topic plopped into my head moments before I turned on the cleaner! {sigh} Silly girl. If the Lord wants a blog post, He's gonna get it.

The carpet cleaner died 4 mintues into the job.

And so, with great hope in the Lord's faithfulness that one day soon I will indeed have a cleaner carpet in that room, and that my desire to proclaim even one job as "accomplished" will come to pass, I am now blogging. Let's talk about the art of accomplishment.

The story is told of a wife who invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and proudly said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"
"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered, wanting to impress their guests with the excellent job she was doing raising the girl. Obediently, the daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people?!”

I laughed when I read this joke because I could picture the Mom and her eagerness to impress her guests. I am certain she planned, shopped, cleaned, cooked, primped, and sweated over the evening. She probably had a grocery list, a cleaning list, a recipe list…you get the picture. And I can indentify because I am a habitual list-maker. (There you have it, the dork in me lives on!) I live by lists, and have as long as I can remember, having learned this skill from my Dad. His was always in his pocket. Mine is always on the counter, or taped to the cupboards, or both, depending on how many different lists I have going at the time. My personal favorite is the “To Do” list. I’ve always--always--got one of those going, and it usually starts with laundry. And I lovelove LOVE to finish something on that list and cross it off! I do it not only for organization and personal accoutability, but also just for a plain old selfish desire of a sense of accomplishment. Feeling like I am getting things done and not just spinning my wheels is what keeps me sane.

I know that most of us reading this are caught up in busy lives. We’re holding down jobs, raising families, doing church activities, worrying about loved ones, enjoying our social lives, etc, etc, and yadda yadda yadda. I am not typing tonight to tell you what is wrong about that. I’m as busy as they come, and I have not yet figured out how to make myself less busy, so in the meantime, I make lists. It’s a survival tool for me, really. But the Lord spoke to me the other day about lists when I was in the scriptures with Him, and I want to tell you about it.

If memory serves me, I was reading in both Colossians and Luke that morning. Lying in the Words of Jesus and Paul are and a “to do” list and a “what not to do” list. The first list I’ll mention is the “what not to do” list, and it would read something like this: do not return evil for evil, do not give with the expectation of return, do not be sexually immoral, do not be impure, do not lust, have no evil desires or greed, have no anger, no rage, no malice, no slander, no gossip, use no foul language, and do not lie. That’s a tough list, and it’s not even all-inclusive, this is just from two scriptures! Eeeck. I know I’ve broken quite a few items on that list in my lifetime, I think even this week, (ahem, today) as I am sure you all have. I had one ponderance regarding this list of the mistakes we all make..…on this “what not to do” list, when do we get to cross something off?? How does our list get shorter? Where is the sense of accomplishment??

Obviously, God’s rules of things He does not want us to do is NOT open for negotiation. We can’t pick and choose what applies to us. Greed is as bad today as it was when Jesus preached on it. Slander and gossip are just as dangerous. Lies and foul language are just as hurtful. Lust is sneakier than ever. These “no-no’s” are written in the Bible, and God will never take an item off the lists He has created. But what about our personal lists? What about the tally of our mistakes? What about the ones in our back pockets? How can those get crossed off? You know the answer! In the eternal perspective, Jesus has already done it. They are gone. If you have humbled yourself, and asked for forgiveness, He has crossed them off your list. Praise the Lord.

But in sweeps our humanness and we falter. We go back to the mistake(s) we make most readily. We put it back on our list. I would suspect that if each of us took some time to make a list, right from scripture, of those things God tells us not to do, and then study the lists, we’d see our behaviors written all over them. They would be as personal as my list that says “laundry” on the top. They would be ours. My challenge to you today, for your reflection, is to figure out how to make your personal “what not to do” list look a little cleaner, a little shorter. Figure out how to permanently cross something off. Drop an old bad habit, don’t keep doing it and repenting, just drop it. If you do so, in the words of Jesus Himself, “then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

That is some seriously good news to me.

Now that I am sounding all preachy, I'll switch to something a lighter. What the Lord has really laid on my heart, and what I most want to talk about, is the “to do” list. It’s long, it’s a tad exhausting, but it’s exciting. Let’s hear it now: love everyone, do good, bless others, pray for others, be generous, set your mind on Christ, wear compassion, be kind, be humble, be gentle, be patient, forgive others, be thankful, let the Word of Christ dwell in you, and let peace rule your hearts. (Again, not all-inclusive.)

Wow. OK, I can’t do all that. I quit. Or can I??

Sometimes the standards of our faith are heavy. They seem too ideal, too perfect, to rigid, too hard. They go against what everyone around us seems to be doing. The "rules" weigh us down, make us look different, challenge us. Perhaps we even feel like we are being set up to fail. But, what if, instead of me having dishes or laundry at the top of tomorrow’s "To Do" list, I had kindness. Or peace. What if I made that my first goal? What if the things I listed as the most important in my day were not the chores, but the gifts I could give to others? I am just one person. What if we all did that? What if the peace of Christ and the Word of Christ and the joy of Christ and the actions of Christ were dwelling in us first…and then we did our laundry, paid our bills, went to work, baked cookies for the kids, typed the minutes for the meeting, etc and etc. Would we look different?

None of us are perfect. Just like none of us can erase our mistakes, and we need a savior, so also none of us are perfect…and we can’t be good all the time. Christ knows that. Just like those weeks that the laundry does not all get folded at my house (OK, so maybe that is most weeks), sometimes I am not so patient or kind. Just ask my kids. I am not always a blessing to others. Sometimes I am weary of doing good.

There is hope. Woo-hoo! In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Anyone else out there need a little rest? I don’t think He is just talking about physical exhaustion. The next verse says “take my yoke and learn from Me”. Learn right from Christ. He tells us that He is gentle and humble, and we will find rest for our souls. Who has ever wanted a gentle and humble teacher? Who better to learn how to master the art of accomplishment from than a gentle and humble teacher?! Jesus finishes in verse 30 by saying, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” This to do list might look like a burden to me today, but Christ says it is light. He says it is easy. He promises peace and joy like none other if we obey.

And I’ve got more evidence. In Galatians 6:9 Paul says, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Did you hear that?! REAP A HARVEST. A harvest of what, you ask? Only God knows. Blessing, peace, joy, empowerment...reward......a harvest of Christ, that gentle and humble teacher, whose yoke is easy and burden is light!

I like the sound of that. And so what if my carpet cleaning project was not accomplished and crossed off the list tonight? I've got better lists to master. To Him be all the glory.