Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's been a year or so since I could use the words "toilsome" or "suffering" and applied it to my everyday experiences. Life was hard a year ago, we didn't sleep much, and we didn't know how we would make ends meet. But the Lord provided plainly, clearly, miraculously for every need then.  This most recent season is a slow period of recovery, growth, and gratitude. We see God using us to pour into our children and into the community around us. We feel inescapably blessed to have a job, even a job that is not in a field of interest, to have a means to survive, to have the chance to be among God's people, to have the chance to watch our children grow. We even experience gratitude at the fact that we are not homeowners. Although my strong desire is to own a home, the Lord does not desire that for us today, and so we thank Him that He is teaching us that even the roof over our head is not our own, but His provision for us.
When I think about what our Father is doing, I imagine that he is looking over us as a blacksmith would look over his smoking, searing, pounded iron just after carefully pulling it from the fire. He inspects it for blemishes, impurities, and weaknesses.  When the metal has cooled, he can examine it to see more blemishes.
"Child, do you need to be put back in the flame and pounded even more?" I imagine Him asking with tears in His eyes.
Until our dying breath, His answer will be, "Yes, again beloved."

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Introverts Unite!

She had no need to play rough and tumble with the other girls and chase the boys across the jungle gym. The little girl in double thick glasses preferred plucking petals from the honeysuckle flowers just off the play yard and enough quiet to feel the breeze on her cheeks. She was undoubtedly an introvert, but she didn't know it!

That was me. But I was clueless that I was an introvert until adulthood; I finally realized that I was exhausted following group gatherings and holidays and was anxious even before attending them. I kept thinking, "Why does this wear me out so much? I really like these people? What is my problem?" and then it all made sense. An introvert is energized by time alone, time to reflect, while an extrovert is energized by being with people.

There's something that happens in an introvert, though, when he becomes confronted with the truth of the gospel; He simply cannot contain it within himself. The introvert who reflects on the deep, deep love the Father has for him can grow to love the people around him so deeply that he cannot help but step out of his internal heaven and put himself into their world. The introvert who knows that their life is but a breath also realizes the same truth about his neighbors and is afforded the same commission as extroverts: to go, make disciples of all nations. To step out of oneself might be embarrassing or awkward, but what is the alternative? Would it be better if I contained everything I knew within, enjoyed it for myself and shared none of it? No!

Would you ever encounter a woman across a pile of sweet potatoes and begin a conversation about her multiple spouses and unplanned pregnancies? It's possible. Jesus had a similar conversation with a woman across a well. Does that frighten you? It does me, a little, but thank heavens we are given wisdom and power by the Holy Spirit to help us and embolden us for the work!

Would you ever invite someone you met at the gym or at the grocery store to your home for dinner with your family? If you believe that faith comes from hearing the word of Christ, then you would consider it invaluable to pursue opportunities to be able to speak the word of Christ with these people. You would plan your weeks in such a way so that you could do this.

"What if I'm just meant to preach the gospel to my closest friends?" Yes, reach out to your closest friends, but  you cannot stop there! The gentleman in the car next to you who just flipped you a generous sign desperately needs to know of a God who loves him, a God who wants to give him freedom and joy through the gospel, and goodness, after such an incident, wouldn't you want him to know that freedom and joy?

Obviously you may find it difficult to communicate with a stranger on the highway, but I'm trying to explain that noone should be exempt from our efforts when it comes to our knowing, loving, and serving the same people the Christ came to save. Introverts are members of the body of Christ! Even if our personalities aren't wired for it, Christ compels us, and the Spirit empowers us to be able to do this, maybe on different levels than our extrovert friends who are geared that way. We are uniquely gifted with the ability to listen thoughtfully to the hearts of the hurting, and we should go there and not shirk away because it is uncomfortable or too close.

Time after time we see examples of God using people in spite of their weaknesses and inhibitions. The power of the gospel given by the Spirit is enough. Let me pound my fists to the table and proclaim, "You can do it!"  

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds is Christ Jesus.

His grace to you my precious friends,