Monday, February 28, 2011

My own little world

I was listening to the Matthew West song , "My Own Little World" the other day and it really got me to thinking.  In case you haven't heard the song before, here are some of the lyrics:

 In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket
shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me 

What got me to thinking really, is the first stanza where he says he has never gone hungry and always felt safe.  You see, that is not the case for me.  My childhood was less than ideal and included a period of time where my family and I actually lived on a bus.  And always felt safe?  Well, many of you have heard enough of my testimony to know that I rarely felt safe!   Now, I am not saying that I was starving or that I grew up in a war zone, or anything like that, but I just can't relate to the lyrics in this first stanza. 

So then, does that mean that I am off the hook?  Well, not exactly!  I was thinking about how so many people grow up in less than ideal circumstances and situation and then allow satan to use that to cripple them for life.  Maybe you have met someone with this "Victim Mentality"  you know what I mean?  Someone who can never quite get past their past to live in their today?  Well, it is one of satan's meanest tricks and for a long time I fell for it.  Anytime I felt like I should teach a Sunday school class, go on a mission trip,or share my story, i would hear satan's reminded me of how unworthy I was and how I couldn't possibly have anything to offer.  So I wouldn't teach the class or go on the mission trip, and I would certainly never share my story.  I don't know that I sat around feeling sorry for myself but I did allow these lies to immobilize me.

Then something changed, I read a book by Steven Curtis Chapman and his pastor, Scotty Smith.  And as I read it, the Lord began speaking to me about the truth of Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  The key word there was "ALL," not some things or good things but ALL things, and that included the troubles of my past.  God began to challenge me to share my journey, as a way of healing for myself.  Oh, i can promise you, i argued with him and fought him tooth and nail, but in hindsight, I am glad that I listened to His voice for Isaiah 61:3 is really true. It promises to give those who have suffered,"a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." 

Now, I am far from being called an, "oak of righteousness" but I can truly tell you that God has taken the ugliness of my past and made it beautiful!  And, i almost missed it because I was trapped in my own little world. So as I sign off for today, I pray you will meditate on the chorus of Matthew West's song and answer his questions for yourself, then get out there and shine!

What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Planning to walk in faith?!

I will admit it, I am a planner.  When we go on vacation I want to map out exactly what route we are going to take, which town we will stop in for food, where exactly we will stop for the night. In fact, if I could set the course with the exact times we would be stopping (give or take a few minutes) I would be blissfully happy.
Now my husband, on the other hand, is a bit more free spirited.  He likes to drive until we get hungry, or tired, or whatever and then we will stop and see what we can figure out for food, lodging, etc.   A few times this has caused some vacation stress....and once I even chucked the atlas out the window, but for the most part we have resolved this difference in personalities.  Besides, some other family may have come across that perfectly good atlas on the side of the road and been blessed, you never know!  (Does that fall under Joseph's "What you intended for evil, the Lord has used for good? Gen 50:20) 

That being said, you can probably imagine how uneasy I get when I don't have a plan, or when things aren't going according to MY plan.  I am faced with this dilemma quite often, but just recently it smacked me upside the head.  A few weeks ago, my boss came to me to let me know that there are going to be cuts made in our program, and by cuts he meant my job!  Well that was definitely not my plan. Because I am a teacher, I will finish this school year but the likelihood of me having a job next year is very slim.  Needless to say, this freaks me out.  Since my conversation I have been doing some major soul seeking (and a little job seeking too!). 
Today, as I did my devotion, I was reminded of the story of Abraham.  Well actually, Abram, because the story takes place before God changed his name.  Back in Genesis chapter 12, the Lord commands Abram to leave his country, his people, and his father's household and go.....

Trouble is, God didn't say where.  He didn't say to pull out his atlas, or look alongside the road to see if anyone has recently left a perfectly good atlas.  He didn't tell him where they would stop for the night, where they would eat, or even where they were headed.  He just told him to go. He asked Abram, to leave everything familiar and comfortable and to step out in FAITH to what God's plan for him was.  Now if we fast forward to the New Testament, Hebrews chapter 11 verse 8, we can see that Abraham is remembered for his faith, "by faith Abraham...obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."
Good thing I wasn't married to Abraham!  We can also see that God poured out blessing upon blessing on Abraham as a result of his obedience.  In fact Abraham becomes the father of the nation of Israel, God's chosen people.  That is what faith can do!

So as the next year holds a lot of uncertainty for me, I need to take a lesson from Abraham and the only plan I should make is to walk in faith....

How about you?  How is God stretching your faith lately?  What has He called you to do that is outside your comfort zone?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why, "Trying to Shine"

You might be wondering why my blog is entitled, "Trying to Shine."  Well, the truth is, it is hard to shine.

Matthew 5:14-16 reads, " 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."  

So clearly we are suppose to SHINE and I have often spoke about the fact that as Christians, when people look at us, they should see that we are different, they should see that light of Christ.  And in the darkest of times, it is even more important to shine because they can't help but be drawn to the Light, just as you are drawn to the light of a flashlight on a dark path.  But, it isn't always EASY to shine....  Take yesterday for example, I was cruising down the back roads on my way to work, singing along with John Wallers, "While I'm Waiting" when it struck me that I was driving well over the speed limit.  Now what kind of example or testimony, especially in light of the song, was that?  
Or today, I spent much of the day complaining about this science fair that my kids have to do.  I have 3 kids that are currently at the science fair age, and it is an annual thing in our town starting in 7th grade and ending in 12th.  It is not something I look forward to, ever.  To compound the issue this year, days ago my 13 year old's jump drive, with the completed project, was stolen.  You can bet I complained about that to anyone who would listen.....but, what I didn't do is pray.  Not once did I pray for the teachers who have put a lot of time and energy into the science fair set up, grading, teaching, etc.  Not once did I pray for the child, whom God created, that stole the jump drive.  Reminds me of the words of the Apostle Paul, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15)
Can anyone else relate to this?  I mean besides Paul and I?  :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Summing up

Recently I had the privilege, and challenge of summarizing a life in a slide show. A young man from our community was in a tragic accident and his family gave me a stack of photos and some songs, asking me to compile them into a tribute to him.
 As I worked on the slideshow, I was struck by the impossible task of summing up 37 years into a show that was a good representation of his life, but short enough to share during the funeral services. I promise you, it was quite a challenge.
That got me thinking about my own life and how it might be summed up? What photos would be shared to best represent me? To best represent my life? Would the photos represent a life well lived? Would they be a reflection of Christ in me, or just me?
Oh goodness, what songs would be chosen? Unfortunately, the songs might be more along the lines of “I’m In a Hurry” (Alabama) rather than “I Surrender All.” And I am not sure I like that!
So friend, how about you? What song or songs would you choose to best represent your life? What photos would you want shared? If the first ones to come to mind aren’t the ones you like, then what can you do today to start changing that?
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:20
I would love to hear your thoughts…