Monday, May 17, 2010

Faith Like Potatoes

I just finished watching "Faith Like Potatoes," an inspiring movie based on a true story about Angus Buchan. A scene about half way through struck me. Angus and area farmers are scrambling to bring a raging fire under control before it spreads to a neighboring plantation. Tensions are high, and Angus starts repeating to himself "What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them." (Mark 11:24, KJV). Finally he declares to his farmhand, "Simeon, we must pray for rain now!" And Simeon responds, "There will be no rain. The rain season is not here yet." Angus insists, "We must pray for rain now!" And again Simeon says, "There will be no rain. The rain season is not here yet." And Angus prays anyway!

I watched the scene over and over. How often does life bring circumstances that seem impossible and while I know I should pray, I don't because the answer I'm looking for isn't "in season." While I believe God is capable of all things, I don't want to ask for the impossible because I don't want to be disappointed if the answer is no.

I found the documentary's description of Angus convicting: "a zealous farmer willing to take God at His Word." Do I take God at His word? I have asked myself this question before. A verse will resonate with me and I'll say to myself "I know this is true but do I really live like I believe it? Do I behave in a way that reflects my faith in God's promises?" I know this can get a little shady and go into the whole "name it and claim it" philosophy. That's not where I'm coming from. I'm talking about taking the specific promises God has given in His word, reading them in context (this is key), and trusting Him to answer. Let me give an example ... in 2 Peter, we're promised everything we need for life and godliness, to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1, NIV). If I truly believe that, when I start to walk down a path counter to God's will (anger, impatience, gossip, whatever), if I seek God's help, His Holy Spirit will give me the tools I need to overcome the flesh and walk in obedience by the power of His Spirit.

Obviously, this is a growing process and part of maturing spiritually. However, I wonder if for someone like me, who has been a Christian for 30-some years, it is easy to know Scripture but have it become rote. To lose the power and impact of such amazing promises because I've heard them so many times. I don't want that to be true. I want to be like Angus in my faith ... God said it, I believe it, and I'll wait until I see the fulfillment of His promise ... A woman who takes God at His word.

So what happened with Angus and the fire? Storm clouds gathered, drops of rain began to fall, and the fire was quenched. All to the glory of God!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It is Well

Sometimes I think my biggest problem is unrealistic expectations. I set myself up for disappointment. Even as I write that, it sounds rather Eeyorish and I'm introspecting to see if that comment stems from a pouty attitude. Perhaps, in part, but I think there's some truth to it.

Today is Mother's Day. All week, my husband has been asking what I want to do today and while I didn't have a specific grand idea, I began thinking of it as "my" day ... I won't cook (which means minimal dishes), I'll get to choose the day's activities, everyone will be happy and peaceful and get along (yes, I know better but somehow that still sneaks in there), and we'll all have a wonderful day! That was the "setting myself up" part. I woke this morning to a cloudless robin-egg blue sky and brilliant sunshine. I thrive on sunshine and freely admit that I'm a much happier girl on sunny days. DH and I chatted about our plans in the sunshine ... church, bike rides, picnics. The kids all slept through the night so we all were well rested -- it was going to be a lovely day! Then 1 woke up ... sick. Then 2 forgot how to dress himself and began whining of a sore throat (a new complaint that pops up during whiny outbursts). The vision of my perfect day dissolved. I marched into my husband and announced that Mother's Day is stupid when kids are little. Sweet guy that he is, he offered to celebrate next weekend. I told him I'm busy. He offered to have church at home. I know, I'm married to a great guy. I told him I needed to get out of the house. I changed out of my church clothes, put my hair in a pony, and left him with a sick kid, a hungry kid, and a sobbing toddler standing on the porch screaming "Mommy, I neeeeeeeed you." Ouch.

We have a beautiful nature park with an incredible view near our home. Ended up there, although in my rapid exit, I donned flip-flops which were useless on the hiking trails. Opted to remain in the car and listen to worship music on the radio. I sat and cried. God, how do I let my self get into these snits? Why do I let interruptions or a change in plans throw me for a loop? Why do I get offended when a family member gets sick (how dare they!!)? I had grabbed "Dancing with My Father" by Sally Clarkson on my way out the door and began chapter 3. This paragraph on page 50 leaped off the page, "I realized that if I didn't build my foundations on eternal realities, I would never be content. Nothing in this physical world would ever totally live up to my expectations. The Lord had to dissolve my self-will in a slow, humbling process of my reluctantly giving up my ideas about what I needed to be happy. I had to become willing to place myself on the altar of God's will. Trying to control my life and whip it into shape by means of my own effort only brought frustration and disillusionment. I realized that in a fallen world, happiness, perfection, and the fairy tale of a Cinderella life are always doomed to failure."

While my ultimate foundation (salvation) is where it should be, my daily, moment-by-moment focus had gone askew. Instead of being outward focused and enjoying any unexpected blessing as an "extra," I was self-focused, expecting the blessings, and crashed when my will isn't what happened. (A side note to clarify my "expecting blessings" -- I was feeling I deserved them ... I think we should look for God's blessings and thank Him for them. I was wallowing in self-entitlement.) Thinking about Jesus' ministry, I don't recall Him ever declaring a day that was "all about Him"! Never did he say "ok, disciples, today is Jesus Day. Serve me! Mary, go spend all you have on expensive perfume and pour it on my feet." Makes me cringe just writing it. No, Christ came to serve and while He most definitely took time to refresh and refuel with His Father, never did he deviate from His Father's purpose. He gave of Himself with humility.

Sally went on to quote Philippians 3:7-9 "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ -- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."

When I was a kid, we sang a chorus in church, "The greatest thing in all my life is knowing you ... I want to know you more, I want to know you more ..." As I reflected and prayed, I realized that I have not made knowing God a priority. Yes, I know Him, but I have not deliberately made meditating on His word throughout the day a priority. I have not put myself in time-outs to refocus when the downward spiral begins. Knowing God and deepening my relationship with Him should be the greatest thing in my life. It should be so marvelous in contrast to the things of this world that I can say with Paul "Everything else is loss!" I'm not there yet!

I have a new goal. When I feel myself slipping, I'm aiming to stop and pick up my Bible. Sounds like such a "good Christian thing to do," doesn't it? But that's not my motivation. My reasoning is this -- God promises the fullness of joy in His presence. Treasures are at His right hand. His joy and treasures surpass anything this world can offer. If I truly believe and trust His Word, if I believe that His Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, then if I allow it, stopping to read even one verse should give me the refocusing, the realigning of my priorities, thought processes and attitudes that I need if I am to reflect my Saviour. I so desire to overflow with Him. Right now, my overflow more resembles that of a clogged toilet.

The hymn, "It is Well" has been playing in my mind as I write and reflect. I leave you with the words written by Horatio Spafford. They resonate within me and so perfectly depict how I desire to respond to both life's small speed bumps and terrifying hurricanes.
        When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.