Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hear My Prayer, O LORD

“Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;

listen to my plea for grace.” Psalm 86:6

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

I’ve been encouraging my Sunday School kids to memorize the Bible verse that the curriculum highlights as a memory verse each week. I’d really like them to learn the actual verse, not just the paraphrased version that the curriculum gives them, so I print out the verse for them on a card and send it home to add to the ring I gave them for that purpose. I am working to memorize the verses, too, because I don’t want to just encourage them by telling them only, but by doing it alongside them by example.

Psalm 86:6 was the verse a few weeks ago, and I’ve been pondering on it, especially in light of how poverty-stricken I feel in regards to my ability to teach my little class. I thought I’d share some of my pondering.

Far too often I find that I do not step out in faith to serve because I fear that I will not serve well, that I have nothing to offer, that I’m not ready, not equipped, you can probably name all the excuses that paralyze me often. My perfectionistic bent leads to sin when I fail to serve at all as I wait for the time when I feel that, in my own ability, I can do a job perfectly, and when I, in my own comfort, sit and wait for just the right opportunity to feel just right, because that time never comes, and I find that I’m still sitting in that warm pew when I want so much to be living as though I am an attached and usable and teachable part of the Body of Christ, serving Him and serving His Body through my local church. That time never comes because I am waiting on a feeling and trusting my own ability rather than recognizing my abject poverty of spirit, and surrendering my need to know enough, be enough, and start resting in the grace of my Savior and understanding that it is in His strength, and His alone, that I can obey and serve.

I confess to you that I get overwhelmed each week when I look at the curriculum lesson for that Sunday and try to get my brain wrapped around it. So many little things to remember and do. And every week I am assaulted by the thought, "Who am I to think I should stand up and teach these kids? Surely someone else could do such a better job at it." But as the anxiety wells up, I have learned to pray, and pray fervently for grace, mercy and wisdom and for a clear mind as I prepare. And I have learned to pray, and pray fervently for Him to develop in my heart such a love for Him and a passion to obey out of heartfelt gratitude for who He is and what He has done in me that it will be evident to the kids that Jesus is the only One worthy of praise. And I have learned to pray, and pray fervently that I would rightly teach the Word and not get so hung up in the fluffy details, recognizing that this is the main thing: to teach them rightly about God and His word, not so much whether I remember or do every little activity exactly as the teacher book says. And I have learned to pray, and pray fervently, that He will grow in me a love for the kids I teach so that I move beyond checking the boxes and going through the motions the lesson plan has for me, but that I be communicating with these kids wonderful truths about the God who created them and sent His Son to die and rise again to set them free from the bondage of sin.

And because of who Jesus is, for His sake, God has clothed me in His righteousness. It is for Jesus’ sake that God hears my prayer and listens to my plea for grace and that I can boldly approach His very throne of grace. Finally, finally I am learning what a depth of need I have for grace every single moment of every single day in every single step of obedience I seek to walk. And friends, He supplies my every need, abundantly and more. He quiets the anxious thoughts that spiral and allows me to think clearly. He allows me to see that it is not my perfect presentation that will turn the hearts of these children to Him. I have absolutely no power to convince them of their need of a Savior. He, and He alone, can open their eyes and ears and hearts to the gospel. It is all grace.

So, yes, I want to be a willing servant. And yes, I recognize that I am not able on my own. But He is. He is. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, even as He commanded us to teach the gospel. And I know that He will work through me and grant me the ability to serve Him and teach those He has granted me the privilege to teach.

And I know that this poverty of spirit is exactly where I need to be. The minute I start thinking I’ve got this, I can do this without those desperate prayers for grace, that is the minute I’ve forgotten just who I am and just Who He is. I don’t want to do this with my perfectionistic imperfection alone. I don’t want merely a nice presentation with no power. I want it to be all His. I’d rather be a little less ‘perfect’ but very, very real and very, very dependent on His grace and mercy, and I want the kids to hear what a great God and Savior He truly is.

**As I was thinking on this subject and working out this post, I listened to Alistair Begg's radio message today. It was extremely apropos. I'm thankful he shared that today. Truth for Life is the organization, and I highly recommend the messages.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sweet Fragrances

I am very sensitive to smells. More than anything, a smell can trigger powerful emotional responses and memories for me. I also am usually the first to notice a bad smell. And super strong, heavy scents like a lot of perfumes give me headaches.

I started making my own laundry detergent a little over a year ago, and I really like the clean, fresh, very light, almost no trace of a scent that it leaves behind....except for my sheets and towels. I really like my sheets and towels to have a clean and fresh smell to them. I’m weird that way.

The story I’m about to tell is what made me decide to write about it today, though. When my oldest son (12-years-old, going to be 13 in October, eep!) was a baby, I used to love the way he would smell when I picked him up from the church baby room at Bell Shoals Baptist on Sundays. I never could figure out what detergent they used to make the blankets smell so nice, but I really liked it.

I think I found it today while shopping at Walmart, not typically a favorite haunt of mine, but sometimes its usefulness slightly outweighs its irritating qualities. I have gotten to where I almost can’t stand to walk down the laundry aisle because the scents are so overpowering now that I’m used to my almost unscented homemade stuff, but I thought I’d try one more time to find something for the towels that would give them a little more sweet smell. I was a little wary because the last time I tried to use my old detergent, which I had always loved before I started making my own, the strong perfumy smell on the blanket I had washed in it made me so sick I had to rewash it in my homemade stuff. So, today I sniffed a few and said, “No way,” until I finally found it. What I found, if it isn’t the same it sure does evoke some sweet memories of those days, is this: Walmart’s store brand (Great Value) liquid detergent, Tranquil Lavender scent. Before anyone asks, I am still making my own detergent, but I like this for my sheets and towels, like I said, and it sure brings back sweet memories.

See, the smell isn’t just a nice smell. It’s a memory of those sweet days of being a new mom and of the friends we shared in that church family there in Brandon, FL. Drew and I feel like that is where we kind of ‘grew up’ together. We lived there as a young married couple, bought our first home there, loved our church family there, and have lasting friendships still today that were forged there, and our two oldest children were born there. So, today’s excursion to my not-so-favorite store ended up being a nice walk down memory lane. It’s so funny how a smell can evoke feelings that just encapsulate a phase of my life so strongly, isn’t it?

I’m enjoying today how laundry is helping me to remember the sweet fragrance that the friendships we made at that time in our early married life and the sweet fragrance of the spiritual growth we both experienced while members of that church have carried over into this time of my life and helped shape us into who we are today.

Kind of glad I decided to go to Walmart today.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Status Report August 2011

Sitting....and staring at the computer, wanting to write a blog post.

Drinking....cherry Coke Zero, made with the cherry syrup we bought at Gloria Jeans while visiting my brother and his family.

Cooked....chicken and veggie stir-fry for dinner. It was good. The daughter opted for PB&J. Weirdo. :-)

Feeling...a little anxious, depressed and blah over the fact that the kids go back to school tomorrow. I don’t know if it’s because my over-perfectionistic bent toward school and the anxiety I had over school way back when has scarred me for life or what, but I get this way every year. That and my baby enters kindergarten this year, and you see some of the reason for my feeling angsty and sick to my stomach today. Seems like summer went way too fast this year, especially. I haven’t had my yearly nightmare involving a locker that won’t open and classes I’ve forgotten to attend yet, however. Yet, I say.

Enjoyed...visiting my brother, his wife and their 9-month-old little boy over the weekend. Finally got to meet my little nephew in person, and he’s a cutie.

Visited...Mount Airy, NC as we took a scenic route home from visiting my brother. It was fun to see "Mayberry" and reminds me we need to watch some of those old Andy Griffith shows with the kids.

 the funny things my kids said in the car on the way home. My daughter talked NONSTOP for the two days we broke the trip into. Seriously. Funniest thing she said was while we were driving over a mountain: "We're having a really fun adventure, Dad!" And my middle boy asking my older boy to kill the flying ant in the car by saying, "I can't get it! Josh, use your wand!" My family is weird, but we have a good time.

Also enjoyed....going to a real mall. Yes, local friends, there was even a food court - with a Sonic and Gloria Jeans, among others, inside. Nice. Imagine that. Bought myself some coffee and the cherry syrup I mentioned above.

Reading....the King Raven trilogy by Stephen Lawhead on my Nook. I’m enjoying the first book, Hood, very much.

Surprised...that my husband decided to upgrade my phone to an iPhone while we were at that real mall that also had a Verizon store. I like. Not sure it was the wisest thing to buy me a phone that allows me to Facebook anywhere, anytime, but, I like.

Ready....for church choir practice to start back up now that August is here. I’ve missed it over the summer.

Amazed...that the outside thermometer was reading 130.5 degrees F at one point this afternoon. That direct sunlight is scorching out there.

Thankful...for air conditioning.

Realizing....that this post is entirely fluff. Sorry. That’s kind of all I can manage at this moment.

Thinking....I need to review Philippians. I had memorized it, but when I tried to review it yesterday, I realized I need a concentrated review before I lose it. be entering the adventure of team-teaching the second and third grade Sunday School for our church this year. get writing. I’ve been saying it, but I’m planning to get busy. That may, or may not, mean less blogging. I know, less than my stellar blogging rate this summer? Time will tell, I guess.

Just finished....packing my daughter’s first ever school lunch. Why do I cry over everything? I packed the boys’ lunches for them, too, though usually I make them pack their own since it’s a responsibility-training exercise. But for tomorrow, I did it for them. That way I can slip in a little note, too. end this post and go get everyone ready to wind up the day.

Happy August!