Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Tale of Two Dogs

My Pastor once told a rather humorous tale about his two dogs. These joyful animals loved to run and explore; so much so that their explorings often took them beyond the boundaries of their yard. Squirrels, noise, and other curious creatures and interruptions led them to trespass on others' lands. Well, my Pastor knew something had to be done. Therefore, he installed an underground, electric fence. The electric zap that buzzed throughout the poor animals' bodies would most likely provide enough encouragement to stay away from those forbidden places.

It definitely worked for dog number one; it only took one punishing shock to keep that dog content with remaining on the porch for the rest of its life. Dog number two? Not so much. This dog would go and sit right on the edge, right inside that boundary that would severely punish him, should he dare to cross it. And his eyes were trained on that single squirrel. Every part of its brain was yelling "squirrel!" Would this dog dare to cross the threshold? It did not take much thinking. It was worth it, so worth it. He ran across the line, yelping in pain as electricity shot through its veins. But, oh yes, it was worth it. He was free and running after that amazingly tempting little squirrel. Dog number two just never learned. It was always, always, always choosing the brief seconds of pain over letting that squirrel run out of its sight.

There are very few stories that provoke true laughter out of me; this one definitely did. Not that shocking dogs is funny, but the fact that dog number two never gave up --- now that was priceless. This is definitely going to be a part by part blog post. I cannot even begin to delve into all the parallels within this story within one blog post. And it is probably better if you know the secret ahead of time; dog number two ---- yep, that would be me. The lessons that dog number two taught me contained a very interesting combination of good and bad. It is not so much that running through electric fences is a bad idea (theoretically here... don't try it), but it is more of what exactly we are running through it for; what we are chasing basically.

So, I welcome you all to follow me through a series of posts, while I explore a few lessons I have been taught about running through electric fences. . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just Stop

On Friday night, I was staring down at the incredibly long list that told of the mounds of school work I still had to accomplish. I was tired, exhausted. A mere fifteen hours of sleep did not provide near enough adequate rest for five days. My heart was heavy. I knew my times with the Lord had been cut short for the last few days; my survival instincts for good grades in school starting substituting bits of my time with Him for extra time spent on homework, term papers, music preparation, speeches, and studying. The next morning, thirteen hours of sleep later, I awoke to the news that my grandfather had passed away.

My reaction displayed that of shock; for me at least, there was no warning. The shock turned to an utter and overwhelming feeling of stress; his funeral was taking place during my finals for school and my final due dates for term papers. Everything that I had worked so hard on and prepared for was going to have to taken at a later time, and, most likely, a very inconvenient time. My preparation did not go to waste exactly, but it did mean that my one weekend that was coming up was not going to be nearly as relaxing or reviving as I thought it would be. It was the one weekend out of the whole year that I actually looked forward to as there would be nothing hanging over my head to be completed. That hope was thrown out of the window.

As I frantically scrabbled to somehow organize the scheduling for making up finals and completing work, He chose to stop me right were I was. In the haste of my previous morning's devotional, I had scribbled three Bible verses on the back of my notebook, intending to ponder them later. As was probably predicted, I did not actually get around to pondering them until right then.
Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength. (Proverbs 17:22)
You can make plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)
The only resounding thought I had left in my mind after reading those verses was "stop!" And thank goodness, I did. How many times during the past week did I make plans and commit my actions to something other than God? How many times did I see only my purpose in my planning rather than what God had in store? How many times had I grumbled and complained about how I hated school and how I regretted not taking my leave early? No wonder I was always exhausted. No wonder I was always tired. No wonder my grades had been suffering. No wonder I felt overwhelmed.

I had done it again, after seeing the results millions of times. I was so focused on what needed to get done that I had sacrificed my focus on what He needed me to do. My broken and burdened spirit had taken all of my joy and my strength. I had made plans, but failed to give them to the Lord. Yet another instant where I wanted control and I wanted power rather than letting Him have the control and Him have the power.

It took the death of my grandfather to show me that. It took the Lord's complete trashing of all of my plans to show me that. It took me stopping where I was in order to listen to the Voice that had been trying to talk to me all week. The grief of what I had done to my Lord compounded with the ignored grief over my grandfather's passing. While the pain is still there, I am moving on. I am moving forward knowing that my grandfather has joined my grandmother in heaven and that he is so much happier up there. I stand strong on His grace knowing that the next few days will be tough, but I will make it through every one of them; if only, I would not forget Whom I am really following.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions. The most commonly made list on New Year's day, and the biggest question people face upon the return to work or school. If I were to form a list of New Year Resolutions, what lessons would I find within the list of goals I have set for the coming year? What kind of attitudes or heart-cries would be revealed within myself?

As an experiment, I once made a list of New Year Resolutions for 2009; this list contained everything I was looking for, everything I wanted, everything I had failed at during the last year, everything that I thought needed to be accomplished or re-done. However, I soon realized just how dangerous that list became as I tried to fulfill it during the coming months after that day. Everything on the list contained the word "I." My goals were based on me, centered around me, and made by me. Where did God come in?

God was in that list; His name was written within most, if not all, of the bulleted points, but that was all. He was written in the list, but He was not the focus of the list. I recognized in each point that I needed His help to accomplish the goals I was making, but I was not recognizing my need to achieve the goals for Him. I was subconsciously planning out my life and my desires on what I thought was best for me. I forgot who really controlled my life, who I had given my very heart to, who I had entrusted my failures and triumphs to, who I had chosen to love, who I had accepted the gift of life from. Why did such a simple list lead me to such a dangerous place in my life?

Actually, the list did not lead me there; my heart did. The list revealed to me the depths of my heart, the corruption that was still present and being allowed to fester within the hidden dark places. The list revealed that I had again fallen into the trap of living out a lie. I had built up so much image, so much knowledge, but let it fill only the places that I had thought needed filling. I learned so much about the Lord, sought to please Him and to do my best in every area, but I failed to really understand how He even fit into the equation.

The list itself was not the danger, but it became the very tool by which the true intent, the true desires of the heart were revealed through. The Lord used that list and my devotion to the fulfilling of that list to reveal what should have been handed over to Him long ago. It revealed just how closed-hearted I had become to the Truth and the Way to Life. It had shown me who I was really living life for at the time and where it was taking me. It had revealed to me how shallow I was as a person. It revealed to me the fear of failure, belief, and change that I had been harboring within the corners of my heart. It revealed my absolute lack of faith, of love, of truth, of hope, of courage, of honesty, and of every good thing there was. Most of all, it revealed the unchanged heart of myself, of a person unwilling to submit to an all loving, all power, all mighty, all knowing Father.

I wish I had that list today for it would serve as a very good reminder of who I truly am a part from Christ, but I do not. I am hoping that this year my goals have changed. As I sat down with my pen to write down the goals for 2010, I found that I had nothing to write. As my pen touched the paper several times, it never made a mark. At last, I found the only words that I could honestly write on that paper. They did not come out in the form of a bullet or in the form of a goal, but in the form of a cry, a hope, a dream, a desire. It was not written to myself, it was not a reminder to myself. It was simply the only honest thing I could say.

Lord, change me. Take everything I have and make it all about You. I just want to love You.