Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Curse of the Night Owl... an observation on Choice

I don't know why... but over the last few months I have seriously reverted to my college ways of being a night owl. Only difference, during college I took naps, now... not so much. Maybe it is because I live within earshot of 150 other girls and they just wear (off) on me. But oh well, I guess my curse of being a night owl is your reading material. 

I thought it would be good to explain a bit in this post... a bit about where I am in life at the moment. 2011 has been a growth (and loss - in a good way) year for me. In March I had a weird dream which kicked my hypochondriaticness into overdrive. But that dream led to a doctor's appointment, which led to (at this point) a loss of 65 pounds (The first picture is in April of 2011, the second is in October). 

In the months since that change I have been doing a lot to physically change aspects about myself, making better choices about food and activities... but I have more importantly been working on improving my wisdom of the Lord and my knowledge of myself... my interests, developing my creativity, and trying... trying to hard to just listen to what the Lord has to say to me.

The choices we make can change our lives, and as I was reading back over some notes in my bible tonight, that theory was strongly reinforced. Though he made a GIANT mistake, I can identify a little bit with Esau and his hunger, and that hunger, and the choice that resulted from it, should serve as a warning to us all. 

Isau's issues all started with being hungry: 
29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary.
 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.
31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 

32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” 
33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 
34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. 
(Genesis 25:29-34)

Sometimes in life we take our God given blessings for granted. In this situation, Esau took his God given birthright for granted... and it changed his life forever. He considered that birthright nothing if he could not survive ("I am about to die, verse 32) to claim it. Often times when talking about God in the Old Testament, we reference him as follows...
"The God of Abraham, Isaac, and _____"

That blank is generally filled with the name Jacob. But consider this, if Esau had not been so desperate for his desire (food) that he gave up his birthright... his name would be in that blank. His name would be tied to powerful God who did so many mighty works in the Old Testament (and of course for all time, but for this point I'll stick to the OT). He would be considered one of the giants of the Old Testament, not his baby brother. 

Now of course if you read the story of Esau and Jacob frankly it reads like a soap opera (Chapters 26 and 27). There are lies, deceit, elaborate costumes, and games, from both sides... no one in that family was innocent of being dishonest, not even Issac himself (for he knew that Esau had given up his birthright, but intended to give him the blessing of it regardless, 27:1-4). but ultimately, my reflections on it lead to one simply, but lifechanging word. 


Esau made a choice. He made a choice to give up his father's blessing for some food. 

“Ah, the smell of my son 
is like the smell of a field

that the LORD has blessed. 
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—    
an abundance of grain and new wine. 
29 May nations serve you    
and peoples bow down to you. 
Be lord over your brothers,    
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. 
May those who curse you be cursed    
and those who bless you be blessed.”

If you read this blessing closely, Esau gave up  Property, Power, and Place. And because of that he lost hope. I mean literally, the heading in my bible of Genesis 27:30, says "Esau's Lost Hope"... all for some stew. 

How many times in life do we give up our Father's blessings for some stew? I think practically applied our "stew" can be the opinion of other, the approval or our peers, Keeping up with the Jones'... How many times do we put our faith on the backburner for friends, for work, for other passions? His blessing should be something we are desperate for. Over the last few months I have laid it all out for Him, and become willing to sit and wait till He is done with me, or to pack up and go wherever He leads.But if I am to bypass those peace's I have come to for a whim of an adventure, am I not making a choice to give up His blessing and His plan for me? Think about how that applies to you and your life. In the places that God is leading you... if you choose to meet some other unnecessary need becuase you don't know if you'll ever receive his blessing or not, well... then you are making a choice... and a really really bad one. 

Esau took his birthright for granted. At the end of the charade put on by Rebekah and Jacob, Esau truly realizes what he cannot have. 
38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? 
Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.
Genesis 27:38

He weeps desperately for his father's blessing that he has given up. Do we not, should we not do the same? 

Please, let Esau's mistake serve as a warning to us all... a warning that when you are to receive a blessing from your Heavenly Father... don't let ANYTHING come between or distract you from that blessing. Don't let your name be left off of the most powerful family tree of the old testament. No one can take God's blessing from you, unless you make the choice to give it up. 

Choose to keep it... and don't let anything pursuade you to give it away.

Love Y'all, 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dear Midway, Thank you for being the Lighthouse.

It's been over a month since I posted something, but I can assure you it has not been a month since my head has been full of thoughts I wanted to post... God keeps giving me these thoughts on Him, and generally I write them down in my bible (lately during sermons which spur the thoughts)... but then they just become bookmarks. I thought I would try to post a few of those over the next few days... but for tonight, I wanted to share some thoughts regarding my home church. 

In December Midway First Baptist Church will celebrate 125 years of existence. 

Midway is the first church I remember attending. It is where I learned about God and His Son from women like Mrs. Willie Ruth, Mrs. Fee, Mrs. Liz, Mrs. Debbie... these are just a few of the women who taught me in Sunday School or VBS, or even them small stint when we had GA classes. I can remember sitting at the little table in the blue room with rainbows on the wall and curtains that were printed with colorful hearts, and learning the stories of Noah, Cain & Able, and Jesus feeding the multitudes on the felt board. Pastors like Bro. Chris, Bro. Murphy, and Bro. Carmichal who preached the Word of the Lord to our congregation, provided me with leadership from a very young age, and taught me to listen and respect what the Lord teaches us from the pulpit. As youth, we were taught by our parents and others in the church , like Buddy and Karen, who loved us enough to take time from their lives to share His love with us through more than word, but action. 
This was how I learned who He is.

Ladies like Mrs. Betty, Aunt Dena, Mrs. Catherine, Mrs. Lois and Mawmaw Cole taught me by example what it is to serve your church and your community. These dedicated women, and SO many more were (and many still are) always around to take care of the rest of us in the most simple ways, like preparing meals after the death of a loved one, decorating the church for holidays and events, or simply by meeting the needs of someone in the community by helping them pay a light or water bill. Pawpaw Cole, Mr. Bob, Bro. Brand, Bro. Kenneth, Mr. Benny, Mr. Jody, Mr. Pascall... these men have shown themselves to be dedicated servants to the church through their actions, whether it be mowing the grass, running the sound system, handing out bulletins, or simply always being consistently present. All of these men and women quietly set an example for the rest of us of how to serve others. 
This is how I learned what He does.

Midway gave me the opportunity to go abroad for the first time. I'll never forget Bro. Ralph Brand encouraging me to go to Honduras just because I was taking Spanish 1 in High School... little did he know that because of that trip I went on at the age of 16 I would develop a love for the language and culture that would lead to a Bachelors degree in International Studies and Spanish. I remember being astonished that mom and daddy would even let me go on the trip, but they trusted those I would be traveling with from Midway and because of that God gave me a perspective and interest outside of my comfort zone. Outside of my red brick, protestant, middle class Southern community... He showed me true poverty, He showed me homes made from tin, cardboard, and plastic sitting on the side of a mountain, but at the same time showed me true joy in the midst of such need. 
This is how I learned where He is.

Last weekend, the church held a Homecoming service to celebrate the anniversary of Midway's founding and the theme was "The Lighthouse" I have a few observations from that service that I want to share. Honestly they don't correlate very well on paper... but they are things He showed me, and words shared from Him, so that's really all that matters, isn't it. :) 

Observation #1: Christians as a lighthouse, not a comfortable thing...:

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 
(Matthew 5:14-16)

Most sermons I have heard on these verses focus on the light, but I had a thought pertaining to the darkness. No, these verses don't specifically mention darkness... but how we should treat our "light," how we should share out "light," and how we should show our "light." The thought I had with all of this though is what importance does light have without considering the darkness. If we only think about our light, and don't think about where it needs to be... then what is the point of it? We have to think of the darkness to understand the importance of our light. 

 In Ephesians the Bible says that once we become light (5:8) we are to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,  but rather expose them. (5:11)" But in order to expose, one must go share it, and if God commands us to shine our light so it brings light to others... then it makes sense that we would have to do that in a place that needs it, in a place that has no light. We simply have to be careful that we are only exposing the darkness, not taking part in it or encouraging it. My pastor here in Birmingham said something once that I immediately wrote in my bible, and I believe it is very comforting regarding taking light into darkness. 

{The will of God will not will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.}
- Dr. Danny Wood

So... if we are to truly be a lighthouse, and reflect His light... we may have to step out of our comfort zones to take the light to others... but it is important to remember, that He is in all things, because He creates all things. 

Observation #2: Nothing Surprises God... so follow His lead and His leadership:

On the morning of the Homecoming service I was sitting on the front porch having my quiet time praying about some changes going on within the church... and as He sometimes does, God made me laugh. Here's how: 

"Whatever one is, he has been named already" 
(Ecclesiastes 6:10)

Plain and simple people - Nothing surprises God.

Often times leaders of a church make decisions that not everyone in a church agrees with or take the time to understand. Like good baptists we like to take a vote to see if anyone is opposed. But God doesn't work like a baptist business meeting. If every member of the church is opposed, but God is in favor... well, we are gonna lose out because He wins... that's just the way it works friends... God's Will will be done in all things, because ALL things are known by Him waaaaaaaaaaayyyyy before they happen. If we truly trust our church leaders, those who HE has ordained as leaders in our church, then we will trust their decisions and trust their appointments as well. I know a lot of pastors and a lot of people on staff at different churches, and they are all extremely prayerful about the decisions they make that affect others. Whether you have 1 pastor like Midway or 5 Pastors and 7 Ministers like Shades... we must trust their leadership for our churches, we must trust their relationship with our God and His ordained servants. If we don't understand a decision ask for an explanation from your pastor and discuss it with him, pray for clarity from God... and then support the decision. Because just like everything else in church, it ain't about us... our sole purpose in creation is to glorify God.

Observation #3: His timing is impeccable:
During the service there were several mentions of members of the church who have made an impact in their own ways. Bro. Kenneth mentioned that he missed Pawpaw Cole and Daddy... and everyone in our pews (Aunt Judy and her family, Mom, Shane, me, Aunt Lanell, and Kristen) immediately began crying... because missing them just doesn't describe how I (we) feel most days. My Uncle Terry, with a tearful voice, said the offertory prayer, and the following song was sang. As I said before, God doesn't do coincidence... 

I will serve thee
                                                                  Because I love thee
You have given life to me
I was nothing
Until you found me
You have given life to me

Heartaches, broken pieces
Ruined lives are why you died on Calvary
Your touch, was what I longed for
You have given life to me

I will serve thee
Because I love thee
You have given life to me
I was nothing
Until you found me
You have given life to me

He is the reason I can get through every day... because the parts of me that broke when Daddy died... He gave me life through that... He died on Calvary so that Daddy can be in Heaven right now and one day I'll see him again... He is the only reason I can do anything in this life... because  He  has given me life, and a purpose to serve. 

I've been at Midway on and off my entire life, consistently for the first 18 years, and when I'm home to visit for the last 10... I'm always encouraged and supported by the people there. I'm thankful for that lighthouse that taught me and showed me so much... that fostered and encouraged me to become the person I am... that supported me and uplifted me in prayers through the worst days of my life... I am thankful for the example, and commit to reflect that light wherever I am and where ever I go. 

Love Y'all,