Friday, February 10, 2012

A Very Successful Failure

I love when God works in ways that we aren't expecting. I mean, it's a great feeling to see the reward that comes from successfully completing a God given task, but have you ever received God's favor in a failure?

In preparation for my birthday project I felt God calling me to fast. This was significant to me because I've never actually fasted before. In fact, fasting has always been something of  a mystery to me. By no coincidence I am sure, it had been the topic for my bible study a few weeks prior and though I left with a greater appreciation for the benefits of fasting, there was a lot of things that I still wasn't clear on. I admit that I was a little hesitant to be obedient at first, but once I committed to trusting God on this adventure I was pumped! Now, I'm sure my inexperience with fasting played into this greatly, but my expectations were pretty high. I was going to dive head first into this and be the best darn fasting woman there ever was! I knew that it wouldn't be all roses, but surely God was going to take it easy on me my first time. I prepared myself to pray through the hunger and to maintain focused on receiving God's guidance in regards to my project. It was going to be an AWESOME day of closeness between The Big Guy and I!

I woke up and was not the least bit hungry, SCORE! I prayed a little and then went about the usual business of my day. By around 10am I was really feeling the effects of missing my morning coffee. I was groggy and starting to get a bit of a headache. I prayed and pushed through, trusting that God would do away with that icky feeling. By lunchtime it was much worse. I was beginning to get cranky and felt the brainfog really set in. This was pretty upsetting to me because there have been PLENTY of days that I have missed breakfast and my coffee and I had never felt like THIS. Why today?? I felt horrible for my grumpy attitude towards my son and began to rationalize that maybe coffee didn't count in fasting. Maybe God wouldn't mind if I just had one cup to take the edge off. I decided that I would be cheating and prayed that God would take the crankiness and headache away.

He did not. 2pm rolled around and I felt like a maniac! I was trying to get my house ready for the guests I was having that evening, getting supplies together for my project, and trying to organize the next day in my mind. My mind that was now merely a dense fog wrapped in a massive headache. I felt out of control and I began to cry... for my coffee! It was at that point that I heard God's gentle reprimand, "How spoiled you are." Say what!? Did God, who I was hoping to spend a day of special closeness with, just call me SPOILED!? He sure did, and He was right. I don't think we expect God to say things to us that we view as negative, but let me tell you He is not afraid to call a spade a spade. He wasn't judging me or talking down to me, merely stating a fact. I was completely spoiled! Here I was preparing to take food and basic necessities to people who go without them on a daily basis and I was CRYING because I didn't have my morning coffee, by choice! If that's not spoiled I'm not sure what is.

I expected that my big "Aha moment" meant that the rest of the day would be easier, but I was wrong. I literally began to feel sick. My body ached, my throat was hurting, and I couldn't even put a complete sentence together. I held out an entire HOUR more before I sat down at the kitchen table and cried while I inhaled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pounded a cup of coffee. I immediately felt the physical relief, but my heart hurt.

I had failed. The fast had been broken and I'm not going to lie, so had I. I really struggled with this failure for a couple of days before God revealed some things to me. He didn't see my broken fast as a failure at all. In fact, I believe it went exactly as He had planned. I went into the fast with high expectations... for myself. I was going to rock at fasting! Here I was praying to be decreased so that God would be increased and I was being proud. I was proud of my obedience and that I was doing something I viewed as a big deal. I felt pretty impressed with myself. While I was fasting with expectation that God would reveal His plan for my project, His plan was simply for me to be humbled. Let me tell you, there is no way to feel impressed with yourself while you are bawling with a face full of PB&J.

My failure was ultimately His success and for that I am blessed. Not only did I leave this experience with a more humble heart, I left with a greater appreciation for the bigger picture. Sometimes we get caught up in our failures and we let them diminish what God is really doing. Sometimes what we see as our failures are really some of His great successes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Come As You Are ~ Pocket Full Of Rocks

Reposting to include a better quality video. =0)

This goes along with my earlier post, but I couldn't figure out to add it in. lol.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Perfection and Grace

I'm not perfect and I am a Christian. **GASP**

It's true! I make mistakes constantly (everyone who knows me just let out a collective "mmhmmm!") I fall short of who I'd like to be daily, probably even hourly. I sin. Yep, I SIN and God still loves me! He loves me when I'm cranky. He loves me when I'm selfish. He loves me when I am outright disobedient and I do things that I know He doesn't approve of. HE LOVES THIS SINNER!

I didn't fully believe that until about a year ago. It's something that deeply hindered my walk with God, which is why I feel so compelled to share it publicly. I have prayed for my own salvation at least 4 times in my life. I'm talking walked up to the front of the church bawling, kneeled before the altar, and asked Jesus into my heart...4 times! I like to think that God was up in Heaven chuckling and knowingly shaking his head, thinking, "Girl, where do you think I have been? Don't you understand that the first time worked?" You see, once we ask God to be our Lord and Savior, He takes up permanent residency with us. No need to keep inviting Him to be our savior. We can't lose our salvation by sinning. God doesn't jump ship when things get dicey. He doesn't see the things we do wrong and run away. He loves us through it all. He sticks with us even when we don't believe that He possibly could. Even when we think He should have left us in our sin.

God knows that we are ALL imperfect. I was in a Beth Moore bible study last summer and heard something that spoke to my heart so deeply, probably because it seemed so contrary to what I THOUGHT I knew about God. She talked about the fact that God is NEVER disappointed in us. I thought, "Hold up, HUH? I do way lame stuff all the time and I'm sure He's probably about ready to give up on me." The truth is nothing we do shocks him or comes as a surprise. He is omniscient. He knows every detail of our lives from beginning to end. He knows every time I am going to sin from now until I'm standing face to face with Him. What I do is never a let down because He knows it's coming. Please don't misunderstand me, this is not a free pass to sin. God does not WANT me to sin. He simply knows that my free will leads me to make bad choices sometimes and He knows ahead of time what and when they will be. Beth talked about the excitement God must have every time we sin (stay with me here), thinking, "Fantastic! She only has to make that mistake 2 more times now! She's so close to really getting it!" That message unlocked some serious chains that were keeping me from enjoying my life with God.

I spent 30 years thinking that I was too sinful to really be saved and that at best I was just a huge failure in the eyes of God. I truly believed that in order to be a "Real Christian" I had to be perfect. It may sound silly, but I thought when I was saved "for reals" the Holy Spirit would come upon me and stop me from sinning from that point forward. Clearly THAT never happened, so my sin must have just been too much for God to want to take on. I can't express the freedom I felt when I finally got it. I don't have to be some perfect "Super Christian." In fact, I've come to realize that nobody is. Pastors are not perfect. That family in the front row at church, flawed! All the super amazing women I meet in Bible studies, sinners. We are all just human. We are ALL just sinners. Christians aren't called to BE CHRIST, to be completely without sin. We are called to love God and others, as we love ourselves. We are called to trust that God loves us enough to help us when we struggle with sin. We are called to have faith that when we sin He stands right there with us, loving us through it and patiently waiting for us to ask him for help.

The road to Heaven is not paved in the perfection of Christians. It's paved in God's love for us ALL and it is cushioned by His mercy and His grace. Know that when you ask God into your heart that mercy and grace is for you! He doesn't expect us to be perfect. He loves us just as we are, NO MATTER WHAT. I struggled for so long not truly understanding God's nature and I missed out on many years in relationship with Him because of that. I want to scream it from the mountain tops so nobody has to miss a single second of understanding God's love: God sees us as we are, sees our sinning nature, and still wants a relationship with us. He loves us more than we could even fully comprehend and His mercy and grace are big enough for every one of us!

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9