Lessons and Exams

Do you ever feel like life is one giant, never-ending year at school and that God is the teacher? In our before school training this week, we have learned about the importance of intentional lesson planning.  We do not test or assess students on something they haven’t been taught.  We want to introduce it to the kids and see what they know, then plan the unit to meet the kids at their level.  We assess as we go to monitor their progress, and we grade the unit exam to see what they have learned.  Each lesson needs to be intentional to point to the key concepts of the unit. I feel like God has been taking me through a unit on Intentionality, Obedience, and Consistency for the last few years.

As you can imagine, I have a lot of thins on my mind with the start of the school year.  I definitely was feeling unprepared to start the year, especially from an American standpoint.  My classroom is still not fully set up.  I am still finishing my job board, and I don’t know what else I am putting on my bulletin board at this point.  I think it will be a questions board or something. That’s a different blog for a different time.  I still have to hang up the word wall.  I still have writing posters to hang up.  I still need to buy a carpet for my reading corner.  It seems there is a never-ending list of things I want to finish so that I can focus on the important things.

And I find myself feeling once again that there are all these important things I would like to achieve. I feel like I am so close to getting there, but I am just trying to get settled to where I feel like I can move forward in them.  And instead of reaching up to achieve them, I am reaching down to stop them from falling beneath me.

So as I enter the weekend finally getting more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep because of late nights at the school, and as I look to start my checklist of the many things I would like to accomplish in my classroom before Monday, I find myself wondering if this has all been a test.  Like in all the times before now that I tried and tried to learn intentionality with my husband and my cleaning.  And in all the times I was feeling challenged to build routine when my schedule was in such flux, maybe these were times God was teaching me to prepare me for my current situations.  And as I self-assess, I want to do better on the test than I am doing. Perhaps I am not so good at learning life lessons as I am at learning algebra and trigonometry.

And perhaps I just need to stop over analyzing life, put aside whatever my idea of perfect is, and just intentionally reserve time to seek the Perfect One. I struggle with that kind of focus when life is in chaos. I feel like I am in chaos.

Advertisements

The Plight of the Prophet

I can only imagine the high and low Isaiah must have felt at his commissioning.

So often, we focus on the first half of this chapter, Isaiah 6, in which Isaiah sees a marvelous vision of the throne room of heaven.  “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple…” We see where Isaiah gets wrecked in a good way with God, and experiences the unwarranted favor of the Lord, a measure of grace that is beyond his time.

Is6.8

Then God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  How could Isaiah not jump at the chance?  After having such a life changing revelation of the holy power and yet grace of God, how could he not commit his life to the work of the Lord?  And his reply confirms it, “Here I am! Send me.”  In a place of total humility and surrender because of what he witnessed, he commits everything, not knowing what he signed up for.

God must have known just how difficult Isaiah’s task would be emotionally.  He must have known that Isaiah was going to need a reference point to hold onto, which is why Isaiah must have been commissioned in such a bold fashion.

I have been meditating and chewing on the commissioning of Isaiah for a few weeks, and I thought there was a glimmer of hope in God’s words:

Go, and say this to the people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

Then [Isaiah] said, “How long, O Lord?”

And [God] said, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.  (Isaiah 6:9-13)

When I first read the, “lest they see with their eyes… and turn and be healed,” part, I thought there was a glimmer of hope.  I thought God was saying to keep proclaiming this message so maybe, just maybe, they would turn from their wicked ways and seek God again.  I thought it was the unrelenting nature of God. But as I delved into the Hebrew text and studied it as best I can, that is not what God asked of Isaiah.  Here is the best Megan paraphrase based on my study of the text:

Go and say this to Israel: “You listen with your ears and not your heart.  You see with your eyes, and not your inner man.” I want you to continue to tell them this until they are callous, blind, deaf, indignant, and unresponsive.  If you don’t, they will turn and be healed… I want you to keep saying this message until everything is utterly destroyed, burned away, removed, and forsaken.  When I have finished, all that will remain is a stump, a holy seed for me to replant and regrow.

Do you see the hopelessness in Isaiah’s commission?  God is basically asking, commanding, Isaiah to preach a message in which nobody will hear.  Isaiah is prophesying to Israel through the Assyrian invasion, through the time when God is allowing Israel to be utterly destroyed for their wickedness and whoring after other gods. God is so done with Israel’s unfaithfulness, that He doesn’t want them to repent.  God will always come to the rescue of the repentant heart, so He wants to make them dull and callous to the truth.  Yet, He still wants truth to be preached knowing that it will not be received! All to weed out the remnant of Israel that will faithfully seek God and be replanted, the holy seed.

I can just picture the devastation of God’s request.  I can just imagine the agony of preaching to a people you love and watching them continue to run away from God.  It is heart shattering.  And it must have been in these low moments, that Isaiah remembered his throne room experience.  He must have remembered the holiness of the Lord, the majesty and splendor.  He must have remembered how utterly ruined he felt as the angel touched a coal to his lips.  He must have remembered the extreme measure of grace he was given, and out of a love and obedience to the holy God, he found the strength to continue.

We live in a world of people calloused to the word of God.  We are commanded to continue to preach, to love, to minister, to share the truth of God to a people who may or may not turn to God.  Still, we must never give up.  We must keep preaching, keep fighting, keep interceding, until nothing is left in the world.  We must persevere with Christ until the world is utterly destroyed and the return of the Lord is imminent. And what is our strength? Remembering who God is and where His grace has brought us.  Grace empowers us to live a holy life surrendered to God, especially when the task is daunting and heart shattering.

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, but I am sure Isaiah had his share of weeping, too.  Perhaps this is the plight of the prophet, the mouthpieces of the Lord, to see the destruction of mankind, yet feeling powerless to remove it. If God told you to preach something, proclaim His truth even though it wouldn’t be heard, would you endure the heart ache?

Losing Control

In case you haven’t heard in the last 3 months of silence, we are moving soon.  It isn’t just a pack up the U-Haul move, either. It is an “I’m leaving on a jet plane,” kind of move. It is a go and sell all you own, box up your sentimental belongings for storage, and start all over in a new culture move. I know all moves can be stressful, but this has been like a drive through the mountains.  It has been a fun and beautiful adventure to see God work out the details, but it also is stressful not knowing what lies around the bend in the road.

And to be honest, I would probably be just fine if we only had the move. But no.  Life doesn’t work that way.  I started a temporary, independently contracted job that is extremely time demanding.  It is stressful.  This is a job that I have had for the last two summers without near the amount of stress.  That is mostly due to a summer full of traveling to see people and invest in them before the big move and packing.  Lots. Of. Packing. Which means the things I did all summer long last year I am now doing on the run throughout the program this year. And I just can’t handle it this year.

I have learned something about myself in all of this.  When I break and buckle under the stress, I get mean.  I absolutely hate it.  I want to escape the world and not think about it all, but I can’t. If I did, it would never get done.  And I find myself caught in this stress cycle where I am not having time with God, so I am not easing my stress, which then makes me more irritable, which then makes those ugly flesh tendencies to rear its head, until all my emotions are rampant and I’m weeping and breaking down, to then feel guilty for how I have treated everyone under the stress, which causes more stress on top of the ongoing stress, which I continue to be unable to deal with because my way of dealing with it is taking a cup of coffee and escaping the world by reading the Word and journaling for an hour, so rather than filling my spirit, I empty my spirit, and the vicious cycle continues until all I see is the ugliness of the flesh I so wish I could kill, crucify, deny, and ignore, but there it is, ugly and exposed. I. Hate. It.

pulling-out-hair

I hate that I am so deep in this stress not knowing who I have hurt or how my words came across or who I need to apologize to.  It feels like I am lost without hope, without light, and I’m drowning in it. There is just too much responsibility on my soldiers. Take out the dog. Clean the basement.  Sort through the boxes. Pack the bags. Work 12 hours a day. Do laundry.  Have I even showered in a week?

Does your grace reach me down here, God? Does your love reach my ugliness, God? Can you make it all right? I sure can’t.  I’m crying out, God. Save me from myself before I implode. I never wanted to put stress and flesh on the throne of my heart.  I want you to be center stage, on the throne, ruler of my heart.  So kick me out, and take control, Lord.  Please, take control.

Stop. Look. Remember.

I’ve always had a sense of wonder at the universe and creation. I could fall asleep (and have) gazing at the billions of stars on a clear night.  I could stare at them for hours in complete wonder at the burning balls of gas that twinkle and shine and exist for no purpose other than to point to their creator.  I could watch the sun set on a flat horizon for days, amazed by the splendor of its painter.  I could rest on a beach with my toes in the edge of the water and watch the waves come in with serene ferocity.  I could even stare at the mountains, especially when they are capped with snow, amazed at how they command my attention. In all of it, I am drawn to the Creator God, the God of the Universe, Yahweh.

As I stepped out of the grocery store this morning, my eyes were immediately drawn to the splendor of Pike’s Peak.  It had crisp lines of white snow and then black and brown earth.  It contrasted the brightness of the clear blue sky.  And I paused to just soak it in and thank God for its beauty.  So many times I take this beauty for granted.  I “see” it every day as I’ve lived in this gorgeous city for the last 3 years.  But I don’t always see it.  Sometimes I forget it is even there.  Sometimes I go about my day doing my own thing, and I forget about the beauty of creation around me.  And as I stood there in the grocery store parking lot just pausing to view creation, I was amazed at how it commanded attention, how it screamed, “Look at me! Look at how beautifully I am created! Isn’t my Creator wonderful?” And I thought, how could I forget you were here?

IMG_1154.JPG
This morning’s view from the Mesa Overlook.  Look at that white cap mountain! It was captivating! #NoFilter

In Psalm 78, the writer says this of Israel:

“They forgot what he had done—the great wonders he had shown them, the miracles he did for their ancestors on the plain of Zoan in the land of Egypt… They did not remember his power and how he rescued them from their enemies. They did not remember his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders on the plain of Zoan (11-12; 42-43 NLT, emphasis added)

This psalm is historical in nature as the writer is urging his listeners to learn from their past as he recounts the mighty works of God and the forgetful responses of the Israelites. It is so easy to look back and call Israel foolish for how they abandon and forget God, but it is equally easy to fall into the same trap.  How many times do we forget about God just like I forget about the mountains?  How many times do we get wrapped up in church culture and the good Christian checklist that we subconsciously have and forget God? How many times do we get caught up in doing the Christian thing that we forget about the One we are actually supposed to be seeking?  Or how many times do we do our own thing in the craziness of life and forget to even give God attention at all?

Sometimes God is in the routine and the business and you know He is with you, and then all of a sudden, like a beautiful mountain scene commanding your attention, God says, “Look at me! Pause and rest and look at me! Look how I am active in your life!  Look how I love you! I want to be deep and intentional with you today.”

Sometimes God pulls us out of the chaos that squanders our time with Him, pulls us out of the disobedience, out of the cycle of living by the world and says, “Look at me! I am still here!  Why don’t you look to me anymore? Look how I love you!  I long to spend time with you!” He commands out attention.

Don’t forget God.  Don’t forget His miracles.  Don’t forget how He has picked you up and chosen you. Don’t forget how He loves you.  Don’t forget about the miracle of life that He has given you.  Don’t forget how He shows up and has shown up in your life.  Maybe you don’t see Him now, but look for Him, seek Him, and remember who He has always been because that is who He will always be.

Sometimes we have to pause and remember who God is and what He has done.  Sometimes we need to pause and remember to look at the mountain and see the one who created it.  I don’t want to forget God and all He has done, and I am so grateful every time He commands my attention and draws me deeper. God is commanding your attention today and saying, “Pause and look at me! Let me share my heart with you! Remember me!”

 

This is Life.

I try to be open and honest in all my blog posts and social media life.  I’m not afraid to show my laziness and tell the world that I binged Netflix all day and “forgot” to do the dishes–ahem–chose not to do the dishes–ahem. Because this is life.  It isn’t perfect.  I’m not perfect. I never claimed to be perfect.  I never will claim to be perfect.  And I will never try to make you feel less for your imperfections.  Chances are, if I can see them, you can see them too.  I don’t need someone to tell me that I am lazy or that I need to just pick up my crap.  No duh! That doesn’t encourage me or motivate me.

17553886_10154979600965540_914294700439750936_n.jpg
Instagram Photo a couple weeks ago which I captioned about my embarrassment and sarcastically said I would pay in hugs and chocolate to do them. I actually had one sweet friend volunteer to help for a foot massage. 
I did a couple of loads of dishes in the dishwasher after posting that pic, and then life and laziness happened again. They piled back up a little more, never fully getting done.  I would get them down a little, and then we would use more dishes and they wouldn’t get done.  I’d rather spend an entire day with my husband than do the dishes, like we did on Monday. I just so happen to also prefer watching Netflix all day like I did on Tuesday, but that isn’t the point. Sometimes dishes pile up because I am lazy.  Sometimes dishes pile up because life gets crazy and I don’t get home to cook until 7:30, we don’t eat until 8:30, and after watching TV with my husband, I just want to go to bed instead of stay up and do the dishes.

Laziness is one of the biggest things I struggle with.  I am working on it. I think all kinds of positive and negative things like, “You are not a slave to laziness; you can choose well today.” “How can I have a kid if I can’t even take care of the house now?” “I hope I can be as awesome as my Mom someday.” “Perhaps I just need to change my perspective and be grateful for the things I have to dirty.” “Perhaps I am not where I want to be in life because I haven’t put forth enough effort and it somehow shows.” “I have failed as a wife because I don’t keep the house clean; that sure isn’t Proverbs 31!” “I’m going to go home and clean for just 30 minutes.” “I am not going to turn on the TV until I complete _________.” “You can do it, Megan.” “It starts with one choice.”

So, no, I don’t need you to fuel on the condemnation, I do it enough. But if you want to encourage me with tips, I accept, both monetary and wisdom tips! If you want to remind me that I am not alone in the struggle to keep my house clean, I accept!

But just as there are days when I have no motivation and know I need to get stuff done, sometimes there are days when this happens.  Sometimes there are days when I finally get all the dishes done.  It only took me two weeks between the mass quantity, the never-ending cycle of using dishes, and the loads I did that weren’t quite enough to keep up with that cycle.  This is also life.  Finally working up enough motivation to get life back on track.  Sorry if you thought I was perfect. I’m not.  I’m still a definite work in progress.

IMG_9020.JPG
Look! It’s clean! Last load in the dishwasher and hand-wash-only dishes are drying!

Fan Girl Praise

My husband and I have had the privilege of attending the Denver Comic Con the last two years to celebrate our anniversary.  We are just that adorably geeky!  We are even planning on going this year, and we are excited! Because of these cons, we have decorated our bedroom with signatures of all the famous people we have met.  We call it Nerdvannah.  Hands down, my favorite actor we have met was Cary Elwes.

Typically, when you stand in line to meet any of the actors at comic con, they are standing or sitting behind a table next to a staff person who collects the money and asks if there are any special requests for the signature and basically gets everything set up for the celebrity to sign and say hello. That is what usually happens.  Not Cary.  With every other actor, you are lined up in front of the table and you can see how the celebrity interacts with each of the fans. Not Cary.

Cary’s line went all the way up to a curtain. Perhaps he was protecting himself and keeping people from snapping illegal photos, but that isn’t how it seemed.  When we finally were let behind the curtain, we were met with the same staff person that orders all the details.  We handed her our “As You Wish” book for Cary to sign, and she placed it further down the table.  By this time, my eyes were communicating to my brain that Cary is not where he belongs; he is not behind the table. Where is Cary? Only then did I realize a man standing beside me, and it quickly registered as he turned toward me that standing directly in front of me is the one and only Cary Elwes.  And as he looked into my eyes and reached for my hand, he said, “Hello! it is a pleasure to meet you. What is your name?” You heard it, ladies.  I have looked into the eyes and shook the hand of Wesley! He was so sincere and genuine as he met his fans, and he was extremely intentional.  As my husband and I left the curtain, I was clutching the book with joy, and I must have had the stupidest grin on my face because my insides were bursting.

maxresdefault.jpg

So, lets walk through this again, only this time, I’m going to tell you what is happening in the fan girl brain.

First you are standing in line.  You always have this sense of expectancy, but with Cary being behind the curtain, the expectancy was elevated. You begin thinking, “I’m going to meet Cary Elwes! Me.  I’m going to meet him. He may never remember my name, but I will soon be able to say that I have met him! This is the best day of my life.  It doesn’t get better than this.  It will never get better than this.  I can die happy after I meet Cary.  My life will be complete. Now don’t you freak out in there.  He is still a person, so treat him like any other individual. But I am meeting Cary Elwes.” Obviously some of that is an exaggeration, but that is what expectant minds do.  The fan girl imagines meeting their idol and tries to figure out how to control the swooning.

Then you finally are let behind the curtain, and the moment comes where you find out if you are a fainter, screamer, or calm one about meeting your idol. Everything in you wants to shout with joy, hug the person, or totally fan girl freak out, but something also makes you freeze inside and lose all ability to speak to the person. You have no thoughts.  You are frozen in time and suppressing every desire to scream. Luckily for me, my husband is much more calm, cool, and collected and could think of something to say besides, “Hi! I’m Megan.”

Then the unfortunate moment to move on comes, and you exit with your new prized possession in hand.  All reverence and respect and suppression is now thrown out the window.  Whether you squeal, scream, faint, or burst with smiles, you are thinking, “I just met Cary Elwes.”  This time it is one of ecstatic amazement rather than expectation.  You are thinking, “I just met Cary…. Elwes.” After you say that to yourself a few times and let it sink in, you start calling him by the roles he has played.  “I just met Cary Elwes, the one and only Wesley from Princess Bride, the one and only Pierre Despereaux from Psych, the one and only Robin Hood from Robin Hood Men in Tights…. I just met Cary Elwes!!!” And with a wide-eyed grin, you are filled with joy that oozes out of you uncontrollably.

Sometimes, God wants us to give a fan girl praise for Him.  If we are having any kind of quality time with God, we should be expectant that we get to meet with Him.  We should be expectant that He will show up because He promises that He will be found whenever we seek Him.  We should be excited to meet Him.  And when we do meet Him, there should be that reverence and respect and sincerity. That is good and important, but what we often miss, is the fan girl rejoicing after we have met with Him.  We should leave our time with God thinking, “I just met with God.  I just met with God.  I just met with the one who holds the entire universe in His hands.  I just met with Jesus, the one who died and rose again!  I just met with the one who heals the sick and paints the sunrise each morning.  I just met with the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Rock of Ages.  I just met with the Provider…” I could go all day.  And in that fan girl rejoicing and declaring who He is that you just met in your quiet time, an unspeakable joy begins to ooze out!

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice!” The Greek word for rejoice here is an exuberant praise, a hailing, like you might for a king. Rejoicing looks a lot like a fan girl.  It looks like an overwhelming joy and awe in realizing who you have just met with, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And when you rejoice, your life is filled with joy.

Let out a fan girl praise to God today!

Trust and Obey

Life gets busy.  We slack on the things we need to do.  We make time for the things we want to do.  Or maybe I am alone in this selfish cycle of putting my pleasures before what is needing to be done.

As I sat down in my planning period to try and focus on God, these were the things running through my heart.  I’ve been running nowhere all week, staying busy with things that aren’t important, especially Facebook.  I haven’t been sleeping enough or well, and as a result of these combined forces, my intimate time with God has become less and less.  I hate when I do that.  It just leaves me with this deep longing for Him that feels hard to fill. Of course, when I put away the striving and just quiet myself, He shows up right there in the midst.

Today I was reading in Numbers 20 where Moses and Aaron are instructed to speak to the rock and to tell water to come forth from it, but instead, Moses struck the rock, and he was punished for it.  In Exodus 17, God told Moses to strike the rock.  In this passage, Moses was told to speak to the rock. When God rebuked and disciplined them, He said, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” (Num. 20:12 NLT) As I read that, I felt like God said to me, “All disobedience stems from a lack of trust.”

I began to think about that and go through the 10 commandments.  If we put other idols before God, we are not trusting that He is who He said He is, the One true God, the I Am.  If we curse Him or use His name in vain, we do not trust that He is holy and to be revered.  If we covet, steal, or fail to follow the sabbath, we do not trust that God provides all we need.  If we murder, we are not trusting God’s justice.  Every disobedience can point to a way that we are not trusting God’s goodness, holiness, faithfulness, justice, peace…

And as I thought on that, I realized that when I fail to slip away with God because I am tired or because I don’t feel like I can engage with Him, when I fail to wake up because I didn’t get enough sleep, I am failing to trust that He is my source of strength or that He is able to redeem that time. When I choose to do what is on my agenda before what is on God’s agenda, I am saying I don’t trust Him enough to meet me and help me accomplish everything else.

Today I will choose to “trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus then to trust and obey.”