Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MY god...or my GOD?

Today I had to come face to face with a really difficult, deep truth--a truth I (and I'm sure you'd agree) don't like to stare in the face. Heck, I don't even want to admit that it exists, much less own it. But as it is, I have to...knowing this is for my betterment and my growth.

I listened to Pastor Mark Driscoll speak in 1 Peter chapter 4, and I was expecting to learn more about suffering. And since I don't consider myself to be a "sufferer" right now in my life, I thought it'd be a breeze...probably not much conviction to worry about today, right?

Wrong.

I wouldn't even have camped out on this verse had I been studying on my own probably, but it stuck out to me like a blinding neon light.

"For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17 (ESV)

Backing up, Pastor Mark was explaining that we as humans were made to be worshipers...we are continually worshiping something or someone. I didn't really give it much thought at first, but then I felt God nudge my heart the way He does with such love, yet with such conviction.

What are you worshiping, Cara?

My immediate reaction is always: "Well, YOU, Lord...of course." But today He brought to mind the many ways I have been worshiping other things...and how they can so easily get in between my heart and my Jesus.

Pastor Mark spoke about being a people pleaser and how that is a common, but still dangerous, sin of the heart. It leads to many other sins when you get right down to it. Being obsessed with what others think and say and feel about you can lead you to do and say things that don't line up with scripture. And the dangerous part is: it usually happens slowly and subtly.

As I sat, soaking all this in, I knew that I had to ask God if I was guilty of being a people pleaser. I had to seek judgment on my heart, just like Peter said--to dig out those little gods. (I know, if you have to ask, then you know the answer, right?)

Right.

It was true. He was talking about ME. I am a people pleaser. I asked God where I am guilty the most in this, and my blog actually came to mind fairly quickly (among other things). It probably sounds silly, but I realized that I sometimes wrote expecting reactions from others instead of writing for the sole purpose of sharing with others what God has taught me. So, this has led me to turn my comments off. I think that will help me to stay focused on Him and not me.

My name is Cara, and I've been guilty of worshiping the idol named APPROVAL.

I fall so easily, Lord. Thank You for gently convicting my heart and showing me how to better follow You. Help me to live for Your glory only...every day that You have given me. Lord, I hand my idol to You, praying that You will smash it and cleanse my heart, giving me a deeper hunger for Your acceptance and approval--not others'. The song says: "YOU are my hope...not THEY are my hope." Thank You for grace and for mercy...only You know just how desperately I need them.

Peace of Christ to you,
Cara

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

God Was at the Park

He was. And I almost missed Him.

I had taken the kids because it was that sort of weather where you feel like you need to repent if you stay in doors. The kind of weather where the sunshine envelops your every step, and you ask yourself, "Were those trees that green yesterday?" That kind of weather.

We had been there for a while already--Keagan had pushed Kate in the swing, I had pushed him, he scuffled down the slides and dug in the rocks. I was tired. As I followed Kate under the pavilion with picnic tables and a cluster of women, I purposefully kept my head down, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone, or else I might be stuck in a situation where I'd feel obligated to actually be kind and talk to someone, right? I could "hear" them watching Kate and feel their eyes on us, admiring how cute she is. I looked up and nearly laughed at the irony of who I was looking at.

Over the past couple of years, God has placed this...thing...upon me with this person and parks. She doesn't even live in our town; yet, I run into her (almost only at parks) quite often. And each time I meet her, the relationship gets deeper.

God gets in a little bit further.

Today as I stood and looked into her tired but bright, brown eyes, she unraveled each step of one tragedy after another through her twenty-five years. She was neglected and bruised as a little girl...only to be abandoned by her very own mother--her mother, who birthed her, but could not save her. She was molested as a thirteen year old by an uncle. The man she married and had three children with cared nothing of them and even less of her. He beat her bloody, inflicting damages that only surgery can repair. He is more than 13,000 dollars behind in child support. He doesn't care if his children live or die. She married again, and so far, has suffered no abuse.

Watching and listening to her tell her story was heart breaking and gut wrenching. The idea that someone else could have hurt her so deeply is hard to take in...especially while I was literally right in front of her. A little less than a year ago, I had told her some about our church family and how different and loving they are.

She remembered that.

And she asked about it today. She asked me to bring her name up in prayer when I go to be with these people. She said she knows God has a purpose for her simply because she isn't dead. And she doesn't question God...she isn't angry with Him. Despite the beatings, the molestation, the abandonment, the neglect, she knows that God is still good. God is still good.

My heart was overwhelmed with humility and compassion for this young lady and her three children. She cares so much for her children. Her eyes brimmed over with tears as she spoke of the blessing they have been to her, and what she would do were anything to happen to them. This is why she lives an entire state away from her immediate family...so her children will be safe from the man who fathered them.

Another uncanny thing happened in the midst of all this, too. This young lady needed to open up and lay her heart out before me, to feel a brush with Jesus, but it was difficult for me to give her my full attention with two small children to monitor on the play equipment.

But God specializes in details.

Kate was inching up steps that a 16 month old has no business forging. I headed toward her to pull her back down to the rock-filled ground, and saw a neighbor from my childhood whom I hadn't seen in so long. She had never seen my daughter, except in pictures, and hadn't noticed my presence yet. But she was going in to take care of my daughter anyway. When she discovered I was there and that this was my little girl, she wanted to hold her for a while.

And so, I was able to continue listening to the other lady. What gives me chills is that the most important pieces of our conversation actually happened while Kate was being watched and held by my childhood neighbor. Had my neighbor not shown up, the conversation between me and the young lady may not have gone toward Jesus.

And He's kind of a big deal, isn't He?

As she cried, we hugged and talked about how God has this all tied together and has a purpose for her life and for her children's lives. The other women who were sitting with her were clearly not comfortable with the likes of me, as they called me a "church-going woman." I wanted so desperately to object, to tell them that I'm not like that...that they could be themselves around me. But words just don't accomplish that like actions do. And so, I resolved to just do my best to "show" them that I love Jesus and don't simply go to church every Sunday.

I honestly don't know what all God spoke to her shattered heart this afternoon, but I do know what He spoke to mine.

This is what I meant when I asked you to love people.
This is what I meant when I asked you to be generous.
This is what I meant when I asked you to be available.
This is what I meant when I asked you to slow down.
You are not here for your own agenda.
You're here for Mine.

I can't believe I almost missed this.

Peace of Christ to you,
Cara

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Because He First Loved Me

Genesis 15:3-7

I'm reading history lately and simultaneously learning more about doctrine--specifically the election of believers. I used to get angry about this because it seemed so unfair to me. Now that I'm letting my personal "will" go, it just makes sense now that my salvation has come from God choosing me and loving me...not from me deciding one day that I want to love Him. Because I simply can't do that on my own.

Abram was from Noah's lineage. God chose Noah to save from the earth's destruction. Noah was not perfect at all; God chose him simply because He wanted to. And this is what made Noah righteous. So then Noah had Shem, and Shem had Terah, and Terah had Abram. So this is how Abram came into the light to be blessed by God. It is nothing Abram has done or even deserved. It was purely because God wanted to bless him. I see this especially when God gently reminds Abram that He brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give him land to possess. In response to this, Abram worships God and sacrifices to Him repeatedly. But he does not get the possessions as a merit system for how well he sacrificed to God.

I think of my own life...and I am getting it more. Let me explain.

Abram's promise from God is that he will have offspring (even though he has none and is already getting up in years) and that they will be blessed, even generations to come. I am technically (biologically) offspring of a people who do not know God, who do not fear God and love Him and serve Him. By birth, I was damned. That's the DNA that knit me together.

And I didn't have a single thing to do with that.

But...God had a different plan. I know I'm no Noah, but isn't it similar in that God intervened and made a choice to reroute the path I was on? The path Noah was on was going to lead to drowning because God was about to flood the earth.

But He chose to save Noah.


The bible doesn't say that Noah petitioned to God to be rescued. He didn't even know of the impending disaster until God had already chosen to spare him.

Likewise, as a baby, I didn't know of the sin into which I was born (nor do any of us). Had I been left in that family, my chances for meeting Christ would have been far less. I just know this and believe it deeply. I know how children are because I have two, and I know that they must be taught to serve the Lord--it will NEVER come naturally. Even if the parents don't teach them, if they ever do learn to serve God, rest assured that someone taught them.

But God moved in my life and set the path for me to be adopted into an environment where I would hear about Christ and I could believe in Him! I did not choose that family--He did! This is overwhelming to me, in a wonderful way. That I, who was nobody, could be chosen and loved by the God of the universe so intimately, and that He would alter the course of my life this dramatically so that I would meet Him...for no other reason than that He loves me. Wow.

And I didn't have a single thing to do with that.

This is one of the hardest things to explain about faith, for me. It's so complicated, so intricately woven together, that there aren't really adequate words to do it justice. We are so sinful that there is absolutely no one who is good. Apart from Christ, we are not even capable of any good. Sure, we may do things that are "good" by the world's standards, but God's not impressed. Can a fig tree suddenly sprout pears one day? Of course not. If we are not even capable of good, how could we choose God on our own?

We can't. We simply can't.

God has to intervene and choose life for us...otherwise, we'll choose sin and hell every single time. It's our nature. It's all we know before God transplants us into a new "family."

Thank you, Jesus, for Your grace and mercy in my life. I know I repeat that a lot, but I fully mean it. Thank You for altering my path and coming to my rescue. I think of the blessings that have come out of that, and I cannot even contain them! You are good.

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. Psalm 96:4a

Peace of Christ to you,
Cara

Monday, April 13, 2009

10 Years with This Guy



Today is my hubby's 27th birthday. We started dating when we were both 16...over 10 years ago!

I cannot believe it's really been that long. We are such different people today than we were then. God's grace has brought us through so many things--good things and hard things alike. We have two amazing children out of the deal, we have an awesome church family with whom we experience much of life, we live around our families, which is a tremendous blessing, we have a beautiful house that we call "home," and I could go on and on. God is just so good. And today I'm thanking Him.

Happy birthday, babe. You are so much more than I ever even imagined you could be all those years ago. Thank you for listening to God and loving Jesus so passionately. This has made all the difference.

I love Matt more every year. I know that sounds cheesy, but as I look back over the last 10 + years, it's the truth. And I know that it's only because of Jesus' power and mercy and grace that I can say so.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me such a godly man after Your own heart. You have made me glad!

Peace of Christ to you,
Cara