What’s Inside That Package?

My husband and I don’t watch much TV but the few shows we watch are, Jeopardy, Master Chef, and occasionally The Voice. What I like about The Voice, (a show where people try to win a singing competition) is that when people audition for the first time, none of the judges see the contestants. They are basing their perceptions of whether to choose that person solely on their vocal abilities. It has nothing to do with the way they look, what size they are, the way they act, the way they style their hair, how much makeup they wear, or what clothes they wear. It comes down to vocal talent. I like that concept and I know that even as open-minded as I think I am, I have found myself being surprised by people who try out at times. Once I was in the kitchen cooking, weeks after they had eliminated contestants and they were down to about six candidates and I heard one of them singing. Because I couldn’t see them, I didn’t recognize which one it was and I had my favorites. I was listening and trying to decide who was singing, but I couldn’t determine which one of ‘my favorites’ it was. I was enjoying this pure voice, but I couldn’t put a face to it. I had to walk into the living room and see who it was. I was shocked because I heard from this person, without seeing them, something I had never heard before, a quality I had never heard before. She was at the bottom of my top three and that night, she moved to my number one! (Incidentally, she went on to win the competition.) I thought right then. Wow! I had a preconceived notion about her. I was judging her based on her age and not her talent. I was letting my mind play tricks on me and not listening to what this gal has to offer! It wasn’t her looks, it wasn’t the way she dressed, it was her age! It made me wonder how many times have I done that with other people based on other things? Maybe it was something else about them that I let get in the way and I didn’t “listen” to what they had to offer. Maybe they had something amazing to share with me and some preconceived notion of mine blocked a tremendous blessing! I was saddened at myself and my reaction.

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Later I reflected on Jesus and how he was rejected in his home town. He was also rejected because he was a Jew. We can think of all kinds of things to reject people for. Sometimes we don’t receive from people because they are talented or because they aren’t talented. We can make up all kinds of excuses not to listen. There are many people who will listen to a person because they have so many degrees, like a doctorate or a master’s but I’ve met people with many degrees who don’t have a lick of common sense. Then there are people who have very little education but have all the wisdom in the world. While we do need to be careful who we receive from, we need to be equally careful who we reject. We may be rejecting the greatest treasure on earth.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people who have tossed out what they thought was garbage only to be found by another who found something of great value? When I had my first job at the age of nineteen, I rented a small two bedroom house off the college campus where I worked in Tulsa. The woman who owned the house, had left it, thirty years before, belongings and all, when her husband died because she couldn’t bear to stay with all the memories. It was quite a mess to clean up, but the structure was sound and the furnishings were very nice. It was like stepping into a time capsule of someone’s life. Imagine all the dust and grime that collected over those years! The vacuum’s electric cord had disintegrated into the carpet. When I went to move it, the cord just crumbled! She said to do whatever we wanted with everything in the house. There was a rather dull wall-hanging, in a plain off-white etched wooden frame, that I tossed into the open trash can. My mother came by as I was cleaning and saw it and asked if she could have it. Naturally, I said yes, wondering why she would want it. A couple of weeks later, I was in my mother’s house and there was a beautiful art piece hanging on her wall. I asked where she found that amazing ocean scene. She said, “Don’t you recognize it? It was in your trash can!” She had cleaned it and antiqued the frame to bring out the gold tones of the sun glistening on the water. It was a seascape of ocean waves crashing on the shore, spraying radiant droplets of water up, with reflections of a golden sunrise, but the dirt I saw had obscured the scene and the bland frame had muted the colors. Her skillful refurbishing had brought out what the original artist had seen and depicted. She asked if I wanted it back and I told her “No Mom, you deserve to have it, because you saw what I could not see, you brought it to life.” Over the years, every time I saw that painting, I admired it and reminded myself to look beneath the dirt and grime and see the potential, because I might be missing something of great beauty.

But isn’t that how life is? There is potential everywhere we look. There is potential in everyone, there is great beauty in everyone. God sees it, but sometimes we fail to see it. God sings over each of us, but we don’t all have the ears to hear his song. And God can use each one of us and speak through each of us. If he can speak through donkeys, he can speak through people. We just have to quit shutting our ears to the people around us and rejecting the packages. You never know when you might be missing a beautiful song or tossing out a beautiful art piece. Will you start receiving the packages God sends to you, no matter how they’re wrapped?

See these verses:

Luke 4:14-30 (Jesus rejection in Nazareth)

Numbers 22:28 (donkey speaking)

Zephaniah 3:17 (Lord sings over us!)

Prayer: Father I pray that today you will help us each to receive the messages you send to us, no matter how they are wrapped. Help us to look beyond the package to the message. Help us all to realize that you are the message and it is you we are seeking. Help us to look for content and not be judgemental. Help us to see with your vision to the heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Completeness

Many times since my husband and I have been married I have heard comments from friends that I seem contented or happy. They are attributing my happiness to my marriage. I am not saying that my marriage doesn’t make me happy; because being in a loving relationship with a person who shows respect and honors you, does make life easier. The point that I’m trying to make is that I went into our relationship happy and contented. I went into our marriage a whole person. I wasn’t looking for someone to complete me… I already had that.

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Most of the people who make these comments knew me when I was going through some very difficult times. They knew me when I was in one of the worst relationships of my life. But I’m not writing to talk about that period of time except to say, if I had been in a place where I should have been, I probably would have never been involved with that person, nor would I have married them. You see, when we are fully committed to God, when we are betrothed to Jesus as our Savior, we are complete. We don’t get into such precarious situations that lead us into miserable relationships. I know that I wasn’t fully committed to God before my last marriage. I also know that there were red flags that I chose to ignore. Unfortunately, it took almost eight years to get out and I wasn’t the one that ended it. I was seeking God’s guidance and they ended it, but it was best for me. It didn’t feel like it at that time in some ways and it felt like a relief in other ways.

Over the course of the three years following that time, I grew in my relationship with God and I knew that I would be fine if I never married again. I wasn’t looking for someone to fill a void, because there wasn’t a void to fill. God had filled it. I had become complete in Christ. Yes, I had been a Christian most of my life, but I had never fully surrendered my life to Christ. Earlier in my Christian life, I was not in a relationship with God that was so intimate that I was certain when God spoke to me without second guessing whether I had heard from him. Many times there were doubts. But during those three years and since, I have become so close to him that I get an idea and realize it isn’t my idea, but it is an idea that my Heavenly Father has given me. You know the verse that says “He will give you the desires of your heart?” (Psalm 37:4) Well, the desires of my heart are his desires, the two have become so interlaced that my ideas are his. That is how it should be… We should be so caught up in what our Heavenly Father wants that we see with his vision and we hear with his ears. We should be able to love with his love. Everywhere we go and everything we do, we should do with the Father’s heart, so that our hearts beat as one. This is when we are fully complete. Do I do this all the time? Certainly not! Just ask my husband. But I do it now more than ever before. Sometimes I am brought to tears by what I see in stores and on the street. People who need love, people who do things to get attention, or people who are so poor either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, pull at me and at times brings me to tears. I was never that way before. Many times I’m drawn to do things for people or at least to engage in conversation with them and I pray for people that I never had the boldness to pray for before.

People who have met me more recently, have asked me to pray for them to “find a mate” who is sold out to God. They say I seem so happy and they have been looking for a while and they thought I must have some luck or power. ?!? Usually, these are “Christian” women, sometimes men ask also, though! This was a request that shocked me! I told them that I wouldn’t pray that for them, and they didn’t like what I said. Yet, if these people themselves were “sold out to God” wouldn’t they know God’s will for their lives? Wouldn’t they recognize his path for them? Why would they “need” a mate to complete them? I asked them how much time they spent with God, how much time they spent reading their Bible, and if God was first in their lives. I received various answers to those questions. I told them they had to be completely sold out to God and completely his before I would pray for them to have a mate. I told them I, myself, had given up on marriage before I met my husband vowing never to marry again at first and then I had told God that IF I was to marry again that he was going to have to show me. I was happy just having God as the “man” in my life. Well, obviously, God had another plan. What I am saying, is that we cannot go into a relationship expecting the other person to make us happy or to complete us. Only God can do that. We have to be fully committed to God. We have to find ourselves complete in Him. If we go into a relationship unhappy or incomplete, we will only take that unhappiness or incompleteness with us and we will not be any happier or whole in a marriage. Our partner cannot provide our happiness or wholeness, they can only supplement what we already have. God must be our first love, even after we marry, or maybe I should say, especially after we marry. But all kidding aside, to be fully committed and whole in any relationship, we must be fully committed to and complete in God first. 

Now you’re probably wondering how you fully commit to God. Well, just as you would in any relationship, you spend time with him. You have to get to know him intimately. This starts by reading the Word daily. As you read the Bible, ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of the scripture to you, he has promised to do that for us in his Word: 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 As you grow in the Word, the path that God has for you will become clearer and you will begin to know what direction he has for you. I expect your compassion to grow and your focus to become more peripheral, instead of self-centered. When you look in the mirror, your visage will change, you will start to see the Christ in you, because the more Christlike you become, the less of yourself you’ll see. I challenge you to read your Bible every day but start by asking him to reveal at least one truth to you each day. After reading daily for a month, see if you start to feel less empty and more complete. At the end of that month, continue reading daily. I hope during these readings that you are also talking to God. Find a quiet place if you can and talk to him, just as you would talk to anyone. This is a time just to communicate with him and also to Thank him for all that he has done in your life. Start with the small things. If you tend to be a pessimist, start by thanking him with the fact that you’re alive. You have to start somewhere. 😉 Ask questions about things you don’t understand. You may not get the answer right then, but you will get an answer, maybe through another person or a minister. Also, find a good church, ask God about that too. We need fellowship and the strength of other believers. This is your road to becoming complete, and everyone’s journey is different, don’t compare it to anyone else’s. The map that has been charted for you will not look anything like your friend’s, neighbor’s or anyone else’s in your family, so don’t expect to move at the same pace or on the same path as others. Just trust God that he is taking you down the right path for you. 

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Proverb 3:5-6 (The Message)

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT – my emphasis)

Prayer: Father, today I pray for anyone who reads this; if there is a void in their life, if there is anything lacking I pray that you would fill it. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Affirming Audience of One

As a writer and a blogger, I often think after I’ve written a piece, “Oh I hope this person or that person reads this.” Usually, it is someone whose approval I want. Of course, I always ask my husband to read my blog, sometimes before I publish, but always after to ask his opinion, because I respect his spiritual insight and I want to make sure that what I wrote came across correctly. I am always curious to see how many people I’ve reached, how many people have read each piece, and how many click like or respond. I write because I want to share whatever knowledge I’ve gained with others, hoping that they might either agree or see something that they haven’t seen before. And yes, it’s disappointing when not many people click ‘like’ (something I have hidden on my blogs). I am also disappointed when I don’t see comments I’ll admit and I am not saying that to make people say something now. I am not a consistent blogger, I am sporadic in my writing, going periods of time without writing and then writing several pieces in a row. But when I get the urge to write, I have to write.

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Sometimes when I write, I don’t always share what I have written, they stay in draft form, unpublished. This comes from wondering if what I have written is too simple to share, because when I have a spiritual revelation, it seems so apparent to me once I’ve grasped it, that I think, “Why did I not ever see this before?!” Then I am hesitant to share it, because I think everybody else already knows it. But lately, I’ve come to realize that we don’t all get the same revelations at the same time and what revelation one person may get, another may miss entirely. I have friends I find deeply spiritual, who I think have “all the answers” and yet, they miss things I find so easy… but still, they see things I think are deep. It is like my sweet friend Mary will say to me… “God is still growing me up.” I have news Mary… God is still growing us ALL up! And in quiet moments, and in moments with friends we find out just how much we have to grow up.

As I do tasks that need little effort, I usually listen to praise and worship music in the background and this gives me time to spend with God and think about him and my relationship with him. This is when I usually get thoughts for my writing and the last few days have been no exception. As I was thinking about my writing I thought ‘Lord, what if nobody read anything I wrote, what if you were the only one who knew what I put down on paper?’ And that was fine with me, because that would mean, I was giving him the Glory he so richly deserves. I was sharing back with him the things he has taught me. What greater praise to a teacher than to have a student recite back to them what they have learned? And if in some way me sharing my thoughts show my Father that I am growing and learning and he is my only audience then I am blessed and He is blessed in the process. I have given him the affirmation that He so richly deserves. The affirmation that I was wanting by looking for ‘likes’ or comments are the very same thing my Heavenly Father wants… words of affirmation.

Affirmation: the act of affirming;  Affirm: to express Agreement to or Commitment to, to Uphold or Support.

Whether you, reading this are the only person who reads this and you are an old friend of mine or you’ve never met me, if anything I’ve said has touched you in some way… if you’ve felt embraced by my love, by the love that the Father has given me to share with others, then I have done what I set out to do when I started writing my blog… to touch others, to share a bit of my life and my experiences and in doing so, to share the love of my eternal Father who has touched me so and has changed my life. Because without him, I would not be where I am today, either literally or spiritually.

I loved you so much that I shared with you not only God’s Good News but my own life, too. — 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NLT, paraphrased)