Category Archives: grace

Restoration…

Most “churched” folk have heard the story of Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at some point in time.  I’m a tad ashamed to admit that my first exposure to the story was watching the Veggie Tales video with my pastor’s kids while I was baby-sitting. (Does anyone else picture Nebuchadnezzar as a big zucchini?  Anyone?  Just me?  Ahem…moving along now.)

This week I’ve been reading the book of Daniel.  I’ve read the book of Daniel before, but it’s been quite awhile and I either wasn’t paying attention the first time or I’m in a different place spiritually and I was just struck differently this time around.  I’ve always had an idea of Nebuchadnezzar in my mind as this arrogant man who created an idol and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire when they wouldn’t worship the idol.  I knew that when they weren’t consumed by the fire and Nebuchadnezzar saw an angel with them in the furnace that he acknowledged that they served a mighty God.  He even prohibited anyone from speaking badly about their God, but that’s not exactly choosing to follow God or acknowledging that He is the one true God.

Then I got to chapter four.  The king had a dream, which Daniel later interpreted, where he learned that he was going to lose everything and be humbled until he knew ”that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will (verse 25).”  And it happened.  Nebuchadnezzar lost his kingdom, and in verse 33 we read “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.”

God brought him, a king used to splendor and riches, to a breaking point.  So what did he do?  He praised God.

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation…

…At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
(Daniel 4:34,36-37 ESV)

Wow.

I was so struck.  At a time when most people would be cursing God and blaming Him for all of the bad things happening to them, Nebuchadnezzar finally honored God as the one true God.  I love the line “my reason returned to me.”  I’ve been there.  I’ve been in those times where things are so bleak and I know that it’s just a low time and that God will bring me through it, and even though my heart may not feel it, my mind — my reason — knows that this is not an abandonment by God, but a learning experience from God.

Nebuchadnezzar was restored.  It was a terrible process, but he was confronted with his own sin and humanity and it humbled him and brought him closer to God.

No one is so far into their own sin that God cannot restore them.   Nebuchadnezzar was throwing believers into a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t turn away from God and worship a statue, and God restored him.

I think this story resonated with me because in the past few weeks DH and I have been walking through some friends’ restorations with them.  When we talk to them, there’s a brokenness there, but a peace at the same time.  They’ve finally acknowledged that things are in God’s hands.  They’ve been brought to the same point as Nebuchadnezzar, where everything else has proved futile and the only thing left to do is cry out to God, admit that you need Him, and begin the restoration process through Him.

I’m so thankful for restoration stories in the Bible.  When I read the stories about Nebuchadnezzar, King David, Paul, and so many others, I see that God really does want us to acknowledge Him, pursue Him, and follow Him, and that even though we mess up over and over and over again,  He desires our restoration.

Praise Him.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under grace, life

Rules, rules, rules…

I am a rule follower.

I can’t help it.  I really suffer from anxiety when I don’t do things the way I should.  If we don’t clean up our dogs’ poop immediately I am sure the HOA will send us a letter.  We went into a state park one time that had a $2 admission with an honor system box; we only had a $20 bill so we went on in and I was fairly certain that a park ranger would see us on a (probably non-existent) security camera and arrest us.  Once, when we were dating, my husband and I went to the dollar theater to see a movie and when it was over we snuck into another theater to see a second movie and I worried for the entire time that an usher would storm in and bust us.  Over a dollar movie.

Yes, it gets ridiculous at times.  Yes, my husband laughed at all of those examples while they were happening.  He is constantly saying “You’re such a rule follower.”

Like that’s a bad thing.  Sheesh.

Because I’m a rule follower, I get very irritated when other people don’t follow the rules and still avoid consequences.  I see co-workers slacking and get frustrated that they don’t get into trouble.  I talk with friends about how (sometimes high-profile) people (often in ministry!) have treated them badly and I’m so upset that no one is seeing them for who they really are.  I have conflict with people and feel like I’ve been wronged and I can’t stand that they get away with it.

It’s not fair, I think.  Why do the rest of us have to follow the rules and they don’t?

Rules can be good.  They keep us safe and provide boundaries that we desperately need.

Rules can also be bad.  Rule-following can easily, easily, easily lead to self-righteousness, and therein lies my struggle.

I have no right to harbor ill feelings toward people who don’t get anxiety from breaking the rules like I do.  This does not mean that I think everyone has the right to disregard the rules, but rather that I have no right to harbor that ill will in my heart.

You see, even though I may be a “rule follower,” I can be a pretty crummy Christ follower.  I fall easily into gossip.  I worry and fret about things completely out of my control.  I don’t always put others first.  I lose my patience.  I lack self-control in so many areas.  I don’t always choose joy and peace.

I fall short yet I’m forgiven.

If I consistently fall short of God’s standards, how do I have the right to expect others to live up to God’s standards?

If I need the grace of God in my life, how can I not offer that same grace that I’ve been given to others?

If I am incapable of living a sinless life, how can I hold other people to that impossible standard?

I don’t want my rule following to turn me into a self-righteous person.  I’ll probably never be a person who completely disregards the rules.  I’ll continue to drive right around the speed limit and I’ll make sure my library books are returned on time.  I’ll keep wearing my retainer every night (embarrassing but true…sigh…) and I’ll worry when we have a few people over that we’re taking up too many parking spots and we might get into trouble.

But while I’m following all of those manmade rules I’ll remember that there’s dozens of other rules that I’m breaking on a consistent basis without even thinking about it.  I’ll try to remember and appreciate the grace that has been bestowed on me, and I’ll strive a little harder to extend that grace to others.  If I can’t make it through life without messing up and doing wrong, how can I get frustrated when others can’t either?

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” — James 4:10

Leave a comment

Filed under grace, life

Six months…

It seems unreal.

We had our last Sunday at our old church exactly six months ago.

It’s been six months since I’ve been a worship pastor’s wife.*

It’s been six months since I had to help unload a trailer at 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday.  It’s been six months since DH had a restless night of sleep because the responsibility of leading worship in the morning weighed so heavily on his heart.  It’s been six months since he was working 50-60 hours a week to make each Sunday morning service happen.

It’s also been six months since I got to worship with some of my good friends.  It’s been six months since I’ve even seen some people I care deeply about and who were a huge part of my life for years.  It’s been six months since I’ve last seen the smiles on kids’ faces that made getting up early on a Sunday totally worth it.

The last six months have been some of the most challenging in my life, and though I don’t like to speak for DH I’m pretty (or totally) sure it’s the same for him.  We’ve experience higher highs and lower lows than we thought possible.  We’ve laughed together and cried together (sometimes at the same time!).  We’ve had to disappoint friends and family by not making trips home because we couldn’t afford for DH to miss a gig.  We have explored our city and found tons of cheap (and free!) things to do for our weekly Date Day.  We’ve had weeks where we drove as little as possible because we needed to conserve gasoline until another check came in the mail.  We’ve both celebrated birthdays and our wedding anniversary.  We’ve watched some of our friendships fade because things can be just plain awkward sometimes.  We have been given opportunities to do the things we love and actually make money at the same time, which is something we certainly don’t take for granted.

Through it all, we have seen God’s faithfulness carrying us through each step of the way.  I am daily reminded of His love and His mercy even though I am so undeserving.  I’m ashamed at my unworthiness yet He continues to bless us, and I’ll never understand it though I am so grateful for it.

Six months.  Holy cow.  They’ve been utterly exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23


*There is a remarkable difference in the reaction I get when I tell people my husband is a musician vs. a worship pastor.  When I told people he was a worship pastor, it inspired a conversation about the church he worked for.  Now when I tell people he’s a musician, I get an “Ohhh,” a pitying glance, and a change of subject. HA. ;)

Leave a comment

Filed under church, grace

With God’s help…

First of all, I have to admit that I am not a very disciplined person when it comes to making myself have a “quiet time.”  I am easily distracted and before I know it, my allotted time has run out and I have to go get ready for work or teaching lessons or something.

It’s always something.

I’ve been making an effort lately to carve out time in my morning to get into scripture.  I’ll get out my ESV Study Bible (which is too enormous to take anywhere, by the way, but I still love it) or I’ll get out my computer and use the online version.  I really like using the online version because it lets you highlight passages and add notes in the sidebar and you can log on from anywhere to access your account.  There are a lot of really useful features and I think they were really smart with how they configured things.

Ok, commercial over. :)

Let me also say that I understand that the reason we read our Bibles is not to feel better.  It is not to walk away feeling encouraged, and it is not help ourselves in any way.

Not that those things can’t happen, but it’s not the primary reason.

I know I should spend time in the Bible because I want to deepen my relationship with God.  If He loves me and He wants to know everything about me, why wouldn’t I do the same for Him?  Why wouldn’t I want to get to know Him on a deeper level?  And how do I do that?  I spend time in the Bible.

Which brings me to this morning…

I decided to spend some time in 1 John today. 1 John 1:5-10 :

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

[Is anyone else singing a little DC Talk right now? I wanna be in the light, as You are in the light, I wanna shine like that stars in the heavens… Just me?  Okay, never mind. :) ]

I don’t often choose to live in the light.  In fact, sometimes I think I enjoy living in the darkness too much.  I don’t mean with the big, tangible sins that are easy to spot.  I’m not doing drugs or cheating on my husband or contemplating leaving the faith.

But I don’t always think pure, holy thoughts.  I don’t pray for those who I feel have wronged me.  I don’t always want to forgive people (I blame that on my rule-follower self who gets irritated when other people break the rules with no consequences…but that’s another blog for another day).  I don’t want to let things go that I’ve tried to let go of a million times but for some reason I still reach out and grab on to them.

I’m discouraged after reading 1 John today.  Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am.  I’m ashamed of myself that I don’t make enough of an effort to pursue living in the light rather than darkness.  I’m frustrated with myself that after I work so hard for so long to let go of things that it’s so easy to fall right back into carrying around animosity.

I want to live in the light.

So now, I want to take that discouragement and turn it into determination.  I want to pursue holy thoughts.  I want to be so focused on God that I have no time to focus on the things of this world.  I want to love Jesus so much that the love naturally spills over into my earthly relationships.

At church this past weekend, Todd talked about marriage and how impossible it is for two people to make marriage work without God helping them.  He said repeatedly that God’s message for marriages was “You can do this, with My help.”

I’m stealing that tagline for this blog, even if it’s not about marriage.  I know I can change my thought patterns to be more focused on God.  I know that my heart can be changed to be more like God’s.  I know it won’t happen overnight, and I know I can’t do it alone.  I can do it with God’s help.

Praise God for His help.  Praise Him that His help never runs out.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Leave a comment

Filed under grace, life

Even so…

We’re in a bit of turmoil here.

Turmoil might actually be too strong of a word.  Uncertainty is more accurate.  Learning every day to rely on God’s grace.  Knowing in our hearts that God is our Provider even when our heads tell us that our decisions may not be seem smart to the world and therefore must be wrong.

My husband is leaving his job as a worship pastor.  We’ve been on staff with a church plant for over three years, and this coming Sunday — six days away — is his last service.  We’re going to try to make it on my salary and his gigs that he plays around town.

Why did we make the decision to leave?  Oh, lots of reasons, but the overriding factor was that we felt God was telling us to go.  We made the decision and waited nearly a week to take any action to make sure we left time to pray and seek wise counsel.

I know we’re supposed to go.  But it’s hard.

We love the people of this church.  We live so far away from both of our families, and these people have become a surrogate family to both of us.  They have triumphed with us and wept with us, and I know that there is confusion from some of them about us leaving.  Heck, we have confusion about us leaving.

When DH announced his resignation to the congregation, he was a wreck.  Total sobbing mess, which is not unusual for him as a sensitive guy.  I played keys in the band for him that morning, and I was losing it too, which didn’t help him when he turned to look at me.  Later on in the set we played “It is Well with My Soul,” chosen specifically for the occasion.  DH led the song again this past week at another midweek service he does, and I couldn’t look at him during the song without bursting into tears.

I’m proud of him for making the tough decision.  I’m proud of him for being willing to take a step of faith.  I’m proud of him for building a strong worship program that will hopefully continue.

This is hard. But even so, it is well with my soul.

1 Comment

Filed under *sniff*, grace, life