Saturday, January 30, 2010

Confession

I have a confession to make, which you probably already suspected by the clever title I used for this post. Okay, so I have to confess that I don't really believe in heaven and hell and Jesus and Satan. Before you think I've completely lost it, let me explain.

I've been kind of pushing an issue under the rug lately. The fact is, I NEVER share my belief in Jesus with people. Okay, VERY VERY VERY RARELY do I share with an unbeliever (or someone who thinks they're a believer because they've been to church more than once in the past 20 years) about Jesus and His gospel. And I really think that we live for what we believe. I say I believe that Jesus exists, is the Son of God, died to make payment for a debt of sin I could never pay, and was raised from the dead and lives today. I say I believe that He is the one and only way to a right relationship with God Almighty and that without trusting in and following Him, you'll spend eternity cursed by God in hell with no way out. But I have this gnawing feeling in my heart because I recognize the fact that I go to Bible study, I pray and seek God, I try to do nice things for others (even those who are different than me), but I rarely share my faith with anyone who I know or suspect doesn't know Jesus.

I've prayed in the past, "Lord, give me a heart for the lost, because I don't have one." What I'm really seeking, I think, is a feeling for people that will overcome the feeling of discomfort I have that makes me NOT want to talk to them about Christ. I want an emotional love for people that will compel me to put my inhibitions and fears aside and engage with them. Listen to Paul's words concerning the lost in Romans 9.

1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel.

Obviously, he felt great emotion and anguish over his fellow Jews who were bound for hell. However, I think I use my lack of feeling and emotion as an excuse for not talking to others about what Jesus has done in my life. There's a quote from Piper that really hits home with me regarding this waiting on emotion to obey.

"Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have a love for the lost? This is a term we use as part of our Christian jargon. Many believers search their hearts in condemnation, looking for the arrival of some feeling of benevolence that will propel them into bold evangelism. It will never happen. It is impossible to love “the lost”. You can’t feel deeply for an abstraction or a concept. You would find it impossible to love deeply an unfamiliar individual portrayed in a photograph, let alone a nation or a race or something as vague as “all lost people”.

Don’t wait for a feeling or love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps in evangelism because you love God. It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God.”
~John Piper

So, we see that we should have a burning anguish for the lost, but we should also just obey God because we love Him and believe Him. So many times actual obedience comes before "feeling like" being obedient. He commands us to share our faith, but we act like it's a suggestion for any who feel lead by emotion to do so or who don't feel too inadequate or who are super-Christians. My actions say at least one of the following:

1. I don't love God.
2. I don't believe God.
3. I don't love others, which means I don't love God.

None of those are good options. But what am I going to do about it? I know what I should do, but will I do it? Good question. I feel like I won't, but I pray that I will. I am glad that God is making me uncomfortable about this whole thing and I must trust that by His grace He will enable me to obey. Maybe I will lead someone to Christ someday, or maybe I will truly know that I believe what I say I believe, whether anyone else decides to accept His gift or not.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bunco Bliss

What makes bunco something I've looked forward to every month for at least the last eight years? Could it be the food? Oh, yes. How about a night with no baths to give or kitchen to clean? Definitely. Maybe it's the fact that you could win an adorably cute scarf or necklace that you'd never buy yourself? Absolutely.

But, really, I think it's just getting to be with other women and do something that requires no real effort. Well, except for the hostess, who has to do TONS of work to prepare...planning, cooking, cleaning, shopping. I really dislike the one month out of the year that I'm the hostess, but I figure the payoff of eleven delicious dinners and nights of fun is worth it.

It's funny that women would choose, on their one night out, to play a game with no skill required, eat enough food to make themselves sick, and just hang around talking about the silliest of topics until they're overcome with sleepiness. But I guess it's because so many women spend so much of their time doing and giving to others. (Not me, of course, but I know some of the others do.) It's such a relief to spend a few hours totally devoted to mindless fun with no one asking anything of you.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I have three little people and one big person asking things of me and requiring a lot of work on my part. But it really makes me appreciate the fourth Thursday of every month and the fact that I have a great family to come home to when I'm stuffed to my eyeballs with food and my eyes are heavy with sleep.

So, thank you brilliant woman (it was obviously a woman) who came up with this lovely concept of bunco. Women all over the world are indebted to you for the beautiful thing you've given us. (Our husbands, however, might have another take on this whole idea entirely.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Voice of the Good Shepherd

There's one thing that is many times more difficult and more stressful than obeying God's voice and that is waiting on, recognizing, and hearing God's voice. It has been one of the great struggles of my walk with Christ, creating more doubt than anything else. However, I seem to have learned a few things from following my Good Shepherd over the past few years, though I doubtless have much more to learn.

My greatest comfort during times of seeking God's specific guidance has been John 10.

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

When I totally freak about whether or not I've heard or missed His voice, I stand on the truth of Jesus' promises in these verses. He says that we KNOW his voice and that we WILL NOT follow a stranger. Knowing His voice comes from years of following Him and listening to His voice in His Word. Still, sometimes I freak out (did I mention that?), wondering if I've just made everything up in my head. When I cry out to God, "How do I know it's You? What if I'm screwing everything up?" He gently answers me with His Words from John 10.

I have been encouraged lately with the story of Abraham's servant who went seeking a wife for Isaac from Abraham's relatives in Genesis 24. When the servant sought God's specific choice in a wife, he was not afraid to ask for specific, practical signs from God. I personally think it's a little unfair, because God answered him before he could even finish his prayer, which He doesn't always do for me. However, the servant went seeking God, not with his own agenda, and then praised, worshiped, and gave total credit to God for the answer. How many times when God speaks do I then go about my merry way, never stopping to worship Him, show my gratitude, and give Him total credit before anyone who will listen?

So many times, I don't even ask Him for His specific direction. I just ask Him to agree with my direction, or I ask but don't really think He'll answer me. But in chapter 1 of his book, James says:

5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

He commands us to ask, but we have to do so with our faith in God alone. We have to trust that He'll answer with His plan in His timing, and that His plan is best even if it doesn't agree with ours. Yikes. That's a little scary to me at times.

I have to admit, though, that harder than asking without my own agenda, harder than having faith that He'll answer, and harder than recognizing His voice is WAITING on His answer. Also included would be waiting on His answer to reach the ears of others involved and then bringing the answer to pass. But one thing I think I've figured out is that this whole waiting in faith is as important as our faithful obedience after He speaks. God has taught me so much in the waiting, yet I still hate to return to the "holding room" again.

It's a little like going to the doctor's office. Oh, how I dread arriving for my appointment only to wait. I sit on the edge of my seat and my eyes eagerly dart to the door to the promised land beyond everytime a nurse opens it to call out the name of the lucky person whose time has come. Then my face falls in disappointment as another person's name is called. I feel a bit dejected, but I continue to wait with hope. "I could be next." Then after an hour goes by, I find myself slouched back in my seat, bored out of my mind, my stomach growling, wondering if maybe they've misplaced my file and perhaps are NEVER going to call my name. Maybe I should give them a little reminder that I'm still there and that they are creating a bit of an imposition on my very valuable time. But I continue to wait, thinking I could possibly die here in this God-forsaken waiting room.

Then the moment arrives. The nurse swings the door back and I hear the blessed words, "Amy Bond?" For a moment, I think I'm hallucinating from the lack of food and water, but then I realize my moment has finally come. I eagerly answer the call, following the nurse back, only to be put in another room to WAIT. By this point, my patience is running a little thin and I'm really getting grandiose ideas about my own importance. How could my name be called and I still find myself waiting? But I remain. I need the wisdom and guidance of the doctor, whom I respect or I wouldn't be there. After another seemingly interminable amount of time, the doctor arrives and shares his wisdom and encouragement.

Then I have a choice. Walk away and ignore it because I didn't like what he had to say, or take his guidance to heart and obey. Hopefully, I choose to obey. And, once I do, it's amazing how quickly I forget about all the painful waiting I had to do and just rejoice that I've received help and guidance and the benefits that follow obedience.

So, what can we do to make the dreaded waiting more bearable? Anticipate the answer and praise the Answerer. As Habakkuk did while he waited on the Lord to make sense of the suffering and loss Israel would endure, we can stay alert for the answer, anticipating that God will show up.

Chapter 2: 1 I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.

We can remember that the Lord has always proven Himself faithful (3:2), the earth WILL be filled with His glory(2:14), and He is still in His holy temple (2:20). And then we can wait in the midst of whatever unlikely circumstances we find ourselves in. We can wait on our Good Shepherd to to act, to speak, to guide. And as we wait, we rejoice in Him.

Ch 4: 16 I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Least of These, Part II

I am restless in my spirit. I'm having many of the same thoughts and feelings that I talked about in The Least of These, Part I. A friend brought to my mind yesterday the thought, "What in my life has actually changed as a result of some of the strong convictions God has brought into my life?" I know that Chris and I are called to something more, something different, something harder than the life we now lead. Is it in the Caribbean? Is it in the ghetto? I know it involves sacrifice and passion and change. Just tonight, God has brought a Scripture to my attention from three different sources in a matter of half an hour.


Matthew 25


31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'



And God asked, "Who are your 'least of these'?" I am having a hard time living my normal life this week. Sometimes I'm so comfortable in it, but I end up miserable, searching. And then God brings me back to the point where I see so much of my life, my activities, my conversations as a complete waste. I see that so much of what I do has no eternal impact on others' lives. And I feel this restlessness. This drawing of the Spirit. God has so changed my heart and my view of what a follower of Christ should look like, but I feel like my life doesn't yet match that.


I must remind myself that He will reveal His plans and purposes in His time. But I don't want to miss it because I'm so wrapped up in my comfort. We have so many excuses for not even seeking God's will, much less following it. I get tired of hearing my own excuses and the excuses of others. How tired must God get of hearing them? I am so convicted each time I read this blog. I know I've shared it with you before, but what God is doing in this girl's life is amazing. But so often we read it, our hearts are stirred, and we walk away from the words with no evidence of change in our lives.


I am reminded of these words from James 1:


22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.


I am drawn to change my life for Christ. I'm just struggling with what that means for us. I don't want to just be a listener, but a do-er. Take the time to ask God today, "Who are my 'least of these'?" Who is it that He wants you to pour your life into? Your time, money, security, comfort?


We have been deceived into thinking that the American Dream is a noble thing worth worshiping and attaining. We thank God for our freedom and blessings, while only using them to bolster our retirement plan, our savings account, and our wallets. We've used the freedoms He's given us to build our own secure bubble where He's not even needed or wanted. We plan our whole lives for the few years at the end where we can enjoy leisure and travel rather than for the eternity that will follow. We talk of God's great love - and it is great - without fearing His wrath.


Lord, I beg you to show me the specific ways in which you want me to use my life to glorify you both now and forever, and then give me the grace and strength to do it.

"Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity." — John Piper



Monday, January 18, 2010

Bond, Chris Bond

My children are often a topic of laughter, frustration, joy, and importance in my life and on my blog. But I have overlooked one person in my life. It's not always as easy for me to brag on my husband as it is to gripe about him. I don't know why except that I'm just a crummy person, I guess. It always seems easier to point out another's faults, mistakes, and shortcomings rather than focus on all the wonderfully amazing things about them. I suppose it's our need to make ourselves feel better about who we are. Chris always makes me feel better about who I am, though, so I'm here to celebrate the blessing he is to me.

Yesterday, it was his birthday and we both realized again how quickly time passes and how hold we, ur HE, is. We've been blessed to be married for eleven years now, which just blows my mind. In the past twelve years that we've known each other, God has been about the business of making Chris the answer to my prayers. When I dreamed of a husband, as most girls do, I really desired a man who loved Jesus and who would lead our home as God would have him to. In December 1997, we met and quickly starting becoming twitterpated, and I knew I had to do a spiritual check-up on this guy I barely knew. So, as any sweet, Christian girl would do, I ambushed him in his apartment one night. We'd probably known each other a whole two weeks. I don't remember what I said exactly, but I remember he looked like a deer in headlights. I figured I had scared him off for good. I can't remember exactly what he said, either, but he's still around today, so he must have passed the test. But he will tell you he wrestled with God that night - and God won. Yay! He never missed a Sunday going to church with me after that.

Still, I wanted someone who loved Jesus more than he loved me. I wanted him to go to church and seek God for God and not to please a girl he thought was kinda cute. I have a horrible memory when it comes to details, so I don't know exactly how it happened, but I know that the husband I have today definitely loves God more than he loves me. But I know he loves me more than anyone after God and that he loves me for who I am...the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trust me, the bad and the ugly easily overshadow the good. He's a brave man for taking on such a crazy, headstrong wife, but I think he's up to the challenge.

Marriage is not easy, at least not for us. But it's totally worth it. Even on the worst days, when I want to punch him in the nose, I know that I'm blessed. Most women in this world would give anything to have a man of such integrity and compassion by their side. I know I need someone who will lead me even when I don't want to be led and to places I don't necessarily want to go. Despite our personalities, God is molding us into godly spouses. We are definitely a case of iron sharpening iron. Sharpening is not always a fun or painless process, but it produces a useful product in the end.

I'm so thankful that, on my worst days, I never have to worry that Chris will walk out. He never throws my faults back in my face. He just bears with me in love. He is patient and kind and does not remember when I wrong him...or at least he doesn't tell me if he does. He hopes and believes that God will use us - together - to do big things. He is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13. He loves me as Christ loves the church. He cares deeply about me and my feelings, but he will not let that stand in the way of God's plan and purpose for us. He will not leave me or forsake me unless it's God's timing for him to do so. He's not perfect, and neither is his wife, but my husband is a wonderful example of Christ's love for His bride. Underneath all the wild, silly, adventurous exterior, is a heart earnestly seeking after God. What more could a woman want?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Randomness

I haven't been having any particularly deep or funny thoughts lately. It's been a pretty humdrum week and then today I felt so inspired after Bible study to blog only to realize I'd already written the post I felt inspired about here. Bummer. How could I have realized and written something so great (the realization from God, not the writing) only to totally lose sight of it and have to relearn it a month later? I think I'm a remedial disciple.

Funny how God spoke to me so clearly through Abraham and Isaac, then put me through a little test of my own (it's actually an ongoing test) only to have me fail. That stinks. I seem to freak out, fail the test, and need a meltdown about quarterly, so steer clear of me in March. It could be rough.

I'm still up to date on my read through the Bible in a year attempt. Sad to say, but this is the longest I've kept it going. But, God willing, I think I'm going to make it this time. Unfortunately I am not a Bible scholar and I am lost and bored in the book of Job. The first couple chapters are great, as are the last, but I haven't figured out God's purpose in all the middle ones yet. I know He has one, I'm just not smart enough to figure it out. I guess He has that lesson on hold for me right now.

Another random thought: What would make a 23-month-old child think he doesn't need a decent nap anymore? Luke is cute and lovable (and a good helper around the house, obviously), but a good sleeper he is not. I completely disagree with his stance on sleep, but he doesn't seem to care at all.

Well, I'm out of all thoughts, inspiring or not, and I have a screaming child, so I guess I will leave this extremely dull entry and spare us all any further misery. Hopefully I'll be back soon with something brilliant, amusing, or thought-provoking. Or not.

Friday, January 8, 2010

He's At It Again



What would I do without him?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Life Stinks...But Not All the Time

I've just been miserable and depressed and mad and yucky and mean and a little psycho the last few days. Basically, like this...

Or just like I want to crawl in a bucket and hide.


I'm choosing to blame it mostly on hormones and my most hated time of the year (the first half of January) rather than my selfishness and other unnamed parties. I really think being cooped up in the house with no purpose other than changing diapers, doing laundry, and entertaining bored children makes me insane. I know it's important work, but I'm not especially good at it.

Since I haven't been feeling too chipper, Luke, being the super sweet, adorable child that he is (most of the time), decided to help me out a bit by...

paying the bills, reorganizing my wallet,


and answering some tadpole emails.

And also reminding me that life is pretty sweet most of the time, if I can just keep looking up. Thanks, Lukey.



Friday, January 1, 2010

I Resolve to Not Resolve

I am not a big fan of New Years' resolutions. You can probably guess why...they're always the same things and they're almost always gone and forgotten by January 20th or so. I've never really made any, or at least not any that I remember, which means that if I DID make them I didn't follow through. Being somewhat of a perfectionist who's afraid of failure, why would I want to set some lofty goal that I will just fail at?

However, Chris and I did discuss how we really want to read through the Bible together this year, after having tried in previous years and failed (see what I mean??). So, I settled myself at my kitchen table a little while ago to read the first three books of Genesis, and what do you know? I got something out of it. (I LOVE how I can read a passage I've read or heard countless times in my life and get something new out of it!)

I was struck by the words ...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (2:7) What an amazing picture of our creation. Almighty God just takes a little dirt, shapes it into a man, and then gives the very breath of life to the previously lifeless glob of dirt. I imagine God's care and love as He formed this most valued of creations and all the thoughts and plans He had for this man and all who would come after Him. I know each time I met my children for the first time, I couldn't help but think ahead to what they would be like, the things we would do together, what they would do with their lives. God must have done the same (even though He's omnopotent and all).

But a little while later, the strangest thing happened. This man and his companion and helper, the woman, forgot what they were. One day their focus was taken off of their Creator and put on themselves with the words, you will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God (3:4) They forgot that they were just dust from the ground who would not have breath or life without the Lord. How ludicrous for them to think they could be like the One who formed them from practically nothing.

Don't we do the same thing, though? I have moments everyday where my memory lapses and I forget who or what I am. I think my life is all about me and having fun. I forget that the point of my existence is not to eat good food, watch movies, play games, go shopping, or have the perfect body. I'm just dust, but sometimes God has to remind me as He did Adam and Eve that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (3:19) This life isn't mine. I wouldn't exist if God hadn't formed me and breathed His life into me.

How often do we make our resolutions or plans for a new year of our lives, which we won't have if He decides not to give it to us, without even giving a thought to the fact that we are dust? Who are we to make grand plans on our own, many times which are totally me-focused and earth-focused, without seeking the One whose breath gives us life to see what He might have planned? What does He think is important for us this year? It's probably not so much to be totally focused on losing weight (though that it is a good thing to take care of God's temple) or to travel the world (unless it's to spread the Gospel or minister to others) or to clean out our garage. Don't you think He would be more concerned with eternal things? Just a hunch.

So, before you make any decisions or plans for this clean slate of a year which stands before you, seek the life-breathing, dust-shaping One who really matters and remember...you're just dust.