Monday, 28 August 2017

Focus on the Passengers, Not on the Road


I don’t know when it started... my obsession with driving from the passenger seat.

I want to say that it was one of my husband’s infamous wrong turns that started it. That instead of staying right, we turned left. And that the resulting time lost and inconvenience piqued my interest and heightened my senses.

But that wouldn’t be honest.

For no matter how many times we’ve made a wrong turn, we’ve always found our way again, and besides my husband seldom makes wrong turns.

Wrong turns may be a bit inconvenient, rob us of precious time and even are a bit unsettling, but usually they are no big deal.

Usually.

And that’s just the thing. When you’re in unfamiliar surroundings and you make a wrong turn, you’re never quite sure where you’ll end up... right there at that moment you have no way of knowing just how bothersome or even dangerous this turn off might be.

And the not knowing... that’s the part I don’t like.

You see I like to be in the know. Like to know where I’m going and how to get there.

So this summer, as we vacationed in Orlando, I might not have been the driver, but my eyes were on the road. 

Just in case... you know, just in case the driver [my-great-with-directions-husband] failed to pay attention and made a wrong turn.

It’s like I felt somehow that my involvement... my focus on the road... my well-timed nudges would prevent any unnecessary and unexpected detours.

But God has a way of teaching us big truths in the little moments of life, and He had one in store for me this summer.

You see, despite my watchful, controlling gaze, my husband did make a wrong turn. And you know what? Yes, it was a bit inconvenient and caused us to arrive later than we had anticipated, but it was all right... no big deal.

Furthermore, he drove several times without the ‘security’ that my presence assures (smile – who am I kidding?) and he was quite fine. Got where he was going ‘in one piece’ as we say.

It was then that it dawned on me.

Maybe I can just relax. Take my eyes off of the road.

And let me tell you. It was work. It’s not easy for a control-girl to release the reins.

But I tried.

And as I relaxed, I realized something.

Instead of multitasking... splitting my attention here, there and everywhere (but mainly on the road), I was able to focus solely on my daughter. We joked and laughed, enjoyed the passing sites and had a refreshing conversation.

It truly was a delight.


And that got me to thinking... about my spiritual life.

As a Christian, I’ve long since handed the wheel over to God, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still try to drive from the passenger seat.

I keep my eyes fixed on the road... because you know - I know where I want to go and I know how I want to get there.

And I try to let Him [God] know, as often as I can that I don’t like wrong turns.  Don’t like the inconvenience and the time or pain it takes to get back on track... back on the path that I think I should be on. 

But Jesus... He’s whispering to me – ‘Focus on the passengers, not on the road.’

It’s like he’s saying, ‘I know where I’m taking you, and I am the way to get there. Trust me. Don't let the destination you dream of distract you from the heart of the matter. Focus on the passengers. Be my hands and feet.’

It’s advice that’s playing over and over in my mind as we get ready to start our sixth year homeschooling. A journey that hasn’t necessarily followed the path I had in mind... I can tend to focus on the road... on the destination I have planned, but God is whispering – ‘focus on the passengers, let Me do the driving’.

It’s the hope-filled wisdom I will need in the nitty gritty of the daily grind. When my eyes are fixed on the road, and the wrong turns come - when life doesn't unfold as I imagine it should - I will need to remember Who's driving and focus on the passengers.

I will need to remember my role as God’s ambassador... to show Him to a hurting people... fellow travelers along the way. I will need to see interruptions as opportunities to minister for Him.

I will need to simply love them like Jesus.

And the ‘wrong’ turns? They are not really wrong. They are filled with purpose and designed by God to draw me closer to Him... and make me more like Him.

My head knows this, but my heart says - it's scary... scary not knowing when a 'wrong' turn can occur or which road it will take me down, but God... His plans for me... for my children are perfect. And His presence never leaves me. 

So... I can trust Him because ultimately I know what He wants for me. And it is good.

What about you?

Are you a passenger driver or have you handed over full control?
What road are you so focused on that you forget the passengers?
Are you missing opportunities to love them like Jesus?
Why not take a moment to reflect today, and trust God to do the driving.


Grace and peace to you,
Carlie


***************
Bible verses for Meditation

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ  loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God. Ephesians 5: 1-2

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34


Monday, 14 August 2017

Shattered Mirrors & My Messed Up Mercy


When it comes to mercy, I wish I could be more like a river, but sometimes I’m just a trickle.

Perhaps, it has something to do with the broken 'trinkets' I lug around.

Take for example, my magnifying glass. It works incredibly well... except that it’s broken... the focus is all off.

Huh? That doesn’t make sense to you? Well, allow me to explain.

In moments when I encounter the folly of another wandering soul, another sojourner on this journey of life, I whip out my magnifier. With preposterous focus, it highlights the flaws and faults of the unsuspecting culprit until they loom literally larger than life. 

Yet, when I turn this same lens back on me, it has a [not] surprisingly opposite effect. With 20/20 vision it shines the spotlight on my ‘rightness’ while any error on my part fades out of view.

Any logical person can sense that something is awry with my trusted magnifier, but I stubbornly hold on to it. Why wouldn’t I? It strokes my ego just so.

A broken magnifier would be bad enough, but what’s even worse is the shattered mirror I tote around. If it weren’t so splintered, I could see the truth about myself. A clearer more accurate focus would be achieved. You know, one that shows that of all the sinners I am chief. (1Timothy 1: 15-16) But no, so broken is it, that I don’t see myself at all. What’s worst? It’s been so long, it’s as if I’ve even forgotten what I looked like... forgotten the scars I try to hide.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  James 1: 23-24

This combination... magnifying the faults of others while not being able to get a good look at myself, leads to the biggest problem of all. You see, the broken shards of my mirror have allowed my ‘me-toos’ to leak right out of the bag. That inclusive sentiment... the one that comes alongside my brother - my friend... that whispers ‘I understand’ - ‘I walk the same road’... that softens, welcomes and loves with open arms.... GONE... slipped right out of my heart without me even realizing it.

I think of the prodigal son... how much he had screwed up... how much he didn’t deserve the reception he got. With my ‘if you know better, do better’ justice scale, I am the older brother. I do not welcome this brother of mine. My scale, which vacillates between mercy and judgment, tips towards judgment.

But, maybe it was the gaping hole caused by judgment that convicted me... made me realize that something was wrong. Something needed fixing and I needed help.

As the older brother, I, too, was in desperate need. I, too, need mercy. With my goody two shoes checklist personality type, perhaps it just took me longer to realise it. 


So, I started first with the magnifier. Since the focus was totally off, and it was never intended to be used this way, I took it right back to the Manufacturer. Thankfully it was still under warranty. Yay for lifetime protection! 

When I got it back the difference was astonishing! Now all I could see were specks in my brother’s eyes while large planks and logs were floating around in my eyes. (Matthew 7: 3-5) And that wasn’t all... as much as I tried to keep it locked in his direction, it kept pulling away, steering away from us and up toward God, it just kept refocusing on the amazing attributes of God and all that He has done for us. (1 Timothy 1:16) I didn’t even remember it was supposed to work this way. It’s like it was shouting to me... reminding me ‘it’s not about you... or him... or her... it’s all about God’.

My new mirror is even more amazing. It doesn’t show the reflection I’d expected... the one that the world tells me is there. The one I believe I would have seen before. Rather, it’s like I’m seeing double. For each time I peer into this mirror I see not just me but us... I see us, as we really are... chosen and cherished children of God. I see the ‘gold leaf’ of Jesus’s blood that beautifully paints over our cracks and flaws. The scars we don’t have to cover up when our story merges with God’s beautiful story of redemption... but that open our hearts to receive and give mercy.


And just like that, I 'see' the truth... the shocking ridiculous truth that God continually offers me mercy. Me, the older brother, the one who doesn't show mercy well. Sometimes though, I find it hard to receive it. I mean, when you stop to think about it, I really don’t deserve it. And I have this scale, you know, and it tips towards judgment... even for... no especially, for me.

But wallowing in judgment is not a pleasant place to stay... and God calls to me. Reminds me that I’m fully known yet loved by Him.  So I reach out, and I feel it, too. The beautiful shock of a welcome party I really don’t deserve.

I feel mercy. 

I become the younger brother... the one fully aware of my transgressions and overjoyed by the sweet taste of mercy

And that helps me to understand... that my dear brother... sister... husband... friend and I - we’re in this together. We walk this path together. We all make missteps, sometimes intentionally, and we all need mercy. It’s a true ‘me-too’ moment, and my ‘justice’ scale tips to the side of mercy.

And then it dawns on me... maybe I don't need to carry a scale at all. Maybe that's not my calling.

My trickle of mercy widens, and I am enabled to be merciful just as my Father is merciful... and it is beautiful.


******************
What about you?
Do you find it hard to receive the mercy God, our Father, offers?
Are you towing around broken gadgets and scales that mess up your mercy?
There is hope, my friend.
God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.
May we freely receive and freely give.
And may God make us rivers of His mercy.


Thankful for His mercy,
Carlie

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Have You Forgotten to Prepare for Joy?


My flowers didn’t bloom last year.

It had been a long hard year, and when summer came, I was really looking forward to them. But they didn’t come.

As I drove around the island I would look longingly at other flamboyant trees and wondered what happened to mine. I wondered if something was wrong with them... if there was something I should do... you know prune them, treat them, call in a specialist...

But my Mom kept saying, “Carlie, every tree is different. They will bloom when they are ready.”

Sounded like good parenting advice to me, but I still missed my flowers and I secretly searched for ways to fix the problem. For that is what it was... a problem.

But my Mom was right, for this year, my flowers are back in full radiant splendor.

Now, each morning as I walk out to the porch, I am amazed at the vibrancy of my flowers and the resulting joy they bring me.

But, it makes me think about God, about his absolute sovereignty... about His control over nature, time and events and even more... about my response to His timing and control.

Yes, I know, I’m a bit strange... my kids accuse me of finding a life lesson in everything, but I can’t help it... it’s just the way God has made me. (smile)

Anyway, am I ‘happy’ only when my ‘flowers’ are blooming? 

What happens when there are no blooms... when I’m going through a drought... a lean period... do I trust that God is still in control even then... that He has a plan... a good one... the best plan for me... even when I don’t understand? 

Or do I try to grab the reins out of His hands... sulking all the while? 

Do I lose my joy when the 'flowers' don’t bloom?

Joy. 

That word has been teasing me for the last few years. 

Having lost two key persons in my life within the last two years and fallen into a survival mode mentality, I was in desperate need of ‘morning’ and the joy that comes with it. I was waiting for my 'flowers' to bloom... for the challenges to be gone... for life’s pieces to all fit together... for there to be smooth sailing.

But... it never quite gets there. Does it? If I wanted joy I had to find it despite the uncertainty of life. I knew where to find it too, but somehow it kept eluding me. Was I doing something wrong?

Had I forgotten to prepare for joy?

Christmas in July

The words of the Christmas carol had been playing in my mind for months. Had I missed something? 

What did I need to do to prepare?

And just like with my flowers that year... I saw it as a problem that I needed to fix... something that I needed to do.

But the answer was to be found nestled in an unlikely place within the words of God.

‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,’ Hebrews 12:2

There are two precious keys buried here:

‘Looking to Jesus’... forgetting who I am and remembering who He is... the author and finisher of my faith.

‘Who for the joy set before him endured’... he submitted to the Father... accepted His will... even as he endured the suffering... He accepted that His Father’s plan was best.

And it was. I am so thankful that He bent His will.

And therein lies the secret.
The secret to joy lies in gladly surrendering to my Father’s will... in keeping a quiet heart before Him... by accepting that He knows best and trusting His plan. It frees me from trying to control life... to gladly serving the One who does.

But glad surrender can be painfully hard. 

I struggle to let go. I want to but ‘what I want to do I do not do’. Romans 7:15

Yet each day... rather each moment offers me a new opportunity to hand over the reins of my life... to accept the offer of a peacefully sweet hope-filled relationship with God... and to prepare for joy His way... by simply surrendering to Him. 

I’ve since learned that ‘Joy to the World’ is not really a Christmas song (thanks David Jeremiah), rather it is a song that joyfully looks forward to the millennial rule of Christ... a time during which all who have surrendered to Him will experience joy to the full.

Now I feel better, now I understand... until that glorious time joy will remain a fight.

I see it clearly. 

On days, when I let go, when I surrender... when I keep a quiet heart before my Father... even when my ‘flowers’ don’t bloom... peace comes and joy flows. 

But there are days when the struggle is real. When convinced that I can find it nowhere else, I fight for joy in God.

And this is how I fight.

'See and savorJesus anew,
Offer my life as a living sacrifice,
Yield to God’s love and plan for me.

It's a fight for an 'even when' joy. And the best part is I don’t have to fight alone, for even the very desire to submit, my Father lovingly provides. How blessed am I? (Philippians 2:13)

******************

What about you?

Have you forgotten to prepare for joy?
Clinging onto the reins of control?
Are you willing to surrender?
Yes, I know it’s painful, but it is so worth it.


To read more about the fight for joy in God, feel free to visit John Piper at DesiringGod.org.


Blessings,

Carlie