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Let Me Do It

14 Sep

Waiting for a friend, I watched a rambunctious little girl at the mall, obviously in the throes of stubborn independence. Everything was “no” this and “no” that. Then suddenly, she took advantage of her mom’s focus at a kiosk to reach up, grab the handlebar of the baby stroller and take off running.

HatchingAPlan“I do it! I do it,” she yelled with glee.

The mom, clearly upset, chased her daughter as the little rebel barely missed hitting a couple. The baby in the stroller woke up and started crying.

“No, Emi. Stop,” the mom yelled.

It’s amazing how a little one can run. The mom caught up with her daughter, swept her off her feet and plopped her down on a mall bench. I watched as she emphatically explained to little Emi why running off with the stroller was wrong and even dangerous. Emi wasn’t ready to listen.

“Look at me,” the mom said.

The little girl never actually looked her mom squarely in the eyes. She sort of glanced sideways at her. And I thought I saw an impish smile … a plan hatching.

Believing she had won, her mom turned back to shopping.

“I do it. I do it!” The little rebel was off and running as the baby in the stroller wailed in protest.

Poor mom. It was going to be a long day.

Aside from my own thoughts about parenting that day—how I might have handled the situation and stubborn child differently—my mind drifted back to my own childhood.

That phrase “I do it” reminded me of an attitude-altering story.

I won a sewing contest in grade school. The Sears store near our home in Chicago sponsored the contest, and winners in different categories also had to model their creations in a store fashion show. My peach-colored dress and short cape, all edged in peach and turquoise floral trim, was cheerful and elegant (lovely for Easter).

I won … But I wasn’t happy at all.

You see, while I was sewing the garment, my mom repeatedly took the material out of my hands. “Here, let me do it,” she’d say. I stood by her at the machine with a frustrated frown.

When the outfit was completed, I figured Mom had sewn most of it. She deserved the prize, not me.

[I wonder how many children feel the same way when moms or dads take school projects out of their hands. And yes, I was guilty of that … surprising, considering my own story.]

After the fashion show, I was determined not to let ANYONE take things out of my hands. My “I do it” spirit was alive and thriving. I just didn’t make a big deal out of it. When people offered to help, I responded with an simple, “No, thanks.” It wasn’t that I thought I could do better; I just wanted control.

Even if I failed, I wanted to be in charge.

Although I had prayed for wisdom as a young girl, I wasn’t willing to listen to anyone’s advice. I didn’t have a teachable spirit. I was proud and stubborn.

Outwardly I cooperated. Inwardly, not so much. It was like the little boy who, told to sit down, obeyed. But he told his mama, “I’m standing up on the inside!”

I was acting like the Israelites in the Old Testament. They proved over and over again the foolishness of their obstinance and disobedience; and under the law, this stubbornness was a serious matter (Deuteronomy 17:12Zechariah 7:11-12).

It’s still a serious matter; but I am so thankful for the grace of God. I’m glad for the covering of Jesus for my sins—including stubbornness.

For so long, God wanted full control of my life, and I resisted Him. It was like I wanted salvation; I even said, “Jesus is Lord.” But the truth was, I thought I could run my own life.

I’m glad God showed me my heart after I joined a revival team in my early 20’s. One day, listening to a revival message on stubbornness, I was deeply convicted of my secret rebellious attitude (1 Samuel 15:23a). (Yes, even a “good girl” can be stubborn and rebellious in her heart.) And I discovered stubbornness is linked to a “stiff-necked” lack of belief (2 Kings 17:14).

How? When we are stubborn against our Father’s will for us, we don’t believe He knows best.

That day, it was as if the Lord was saying to me: “Here, my child … let Me do it. Let me have control. Let Me change your life. Let me live out My life in and through you.”

My heart broke and I stopped resisting.

The years of “Leave me alone; I can do it” arrogance melted away in sweet surrender to the Sovereign Lord.

I determined to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24-27) with a teachable spirit (Psalm 25:5; 86:11). And I discovered a powerful truth: when we surrender everything to Him (our plans, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, frustrations, habits—everything), He can run our lives infinitely better than we can.

How foolish to resist His loving guidance and help.

There may be an area of your life where the Lord is whispering, “I care and I want to help you. Will you let Me do it? Will you trust me with your heart?”

How will you respond?

– Dawn

Photo adapted, Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Change? You’ve Got Everything You Need.

16 May

TwoCaterpillarsTwo caterpillars were chatting on a leaf. Suddenly, a beautiful butterfly fluttered by.

One caterpillar turned to the other and said, “You’ll never get me up on one of those butterfly things!”

It’s always dangerous to assume we know all the answers, and to resist change because we don’t understand.

The truth is, we have to stop being caterpillars before we can MonarchButterflybecome butterflies.

After my dog barked at a caterpillar the other day and I rescued the little stripped larvae (envisioning the gorgeous butterfly that would someday take flight), I thought about that caterpillar joke. How pitiful that the caterpillar didn’t understand the destiny of change.

I am tired of listening to Christians grumble that they “can’t change.”

And I’m not being critical of others. I’m just as tired of hearing my own complaints and excuses.

Like many people, I’ve caught myself saying, “I can’t change. It’s just the way I am.” No – I need to wake up to all that I have in Christ and my true destiny in Him. I need to step out in faith, courage and obedience – to walk as a child of light, pleasing the Lord (Ephesians 5:8-10). A child of light; that’s who I really am. I just keep forgetting the power that is mine.

Let me rephrase that. It’s not my power. God’s “divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). The Lord is our El Shaddai – God the all-sufficient One – and He perfectly supplies our needs. Although the primary focus of this passage in 2 Peter is our spiritual rather than temporal life, God’s children attest to His care, even in the storms of life.

Still, Paul said he considered everything else he had “a loss” and even “garbage” compared to the “surpassing worth” of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8). He understood that to know and “have” Jesus is to have everything.

Many Christians don’t think this way. They don’t believe we have all we need to live a godly, purpose-filled life. They’re always looking for an allusive something that’s missing so they can “have victory,” “find purpose,” or “live for God.” They think it might be in the next blog they read, or the next Sunday message. The truth is, God is actively seeking to change my life and make me more like Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:23). I am a work in progress, and God has given me the Word and spiritual tools for change.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “encouraging, comforting and urging” them “to live lives worthy of God” who had saved them (1 Thessalonians 2:12). But why did he tell believers to “make every effort to add” to their faith so they will be effective and productive in their knowledge of God and service for Him? (See 2 Peter 1:5-10; 3:18.) Why? God expects us to grow! Though we may face trials, God continues to work in us (Philippians 1:6 ). When we suffer and stumble, He restores us and make us “strong, firm and steadfast” for His glory (1 Peter 5:10).

When my husband recovered from knee surgery, we kept the post-surgery swelling down using a machine that streamed icy water through a rubber mat. The first time I wrapped the mat around his knee and plugged the machine into the wall, I thought it was broken. It took me a few minutes to realize a tiny wire at the top of the machine’s casing was not completely pushed in. What appeared to be powerless or even broken was simply a disconnected wire.

In the same way, I have everything I need to live a godly, effective life, but I need to make sure I’m connected each day, mentally and spiritually. I need to remember the cross, and think about who I am and what I have in Christ. The scriptures tell me my life is “hidden with Christ in God” and therefore, I am “qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 3:3; 1:9-14). That is the truth. That is why I can walk in light. (I have been justified; I am being sanctified.) I can make the daily upgrading choices that align with God’s plan for my life.

God expects my cooperation – a willing, surrendered heart. So I will strive for excellence in all things, desiring to reflect the glory of God. I will pursue holiness and be careful in my behavior, walking in wisdom and making the best use of my time, doing my best to understand and follow the will of the Lord (Ephesians 5:15-17). I will “walk worthy” of my calling (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27a; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

I’ve got everything I need for change; and if you know the Lord in a personal, redeemed relationship, you have everything you need. Believe it.

When is it hardest for you to believe you’ve got everything you need?

– Dawn

A Heart Choice: Moving from Hoarder to Helper

3 Jan

I have a collection of Cherish Teddies in a couple of boxes in my garage. They have become the family joke, because no one wants to inherit them, and I can’t even sell them in a garage sale! Do you have a “what do I do with it now?” collection?

Some time ago, I studied with fascination some of the world’s largest collections.

BarbieDollCollectionThere was a collection of:  Barbie dolls (15,000 dolls in 19 years); Santa items (25,189 toys, trinkets, dolls,and other Santa items); Dice (a reported 11,097 dice in 2003); Kitchen timers (1,300 different timers); Nativity scenes (2,150 nativities displayed in one church); License plates (11,345 different numbered plates from 133 countries); Teddy Bears (7,106 different bears); Rubber bands (700,000 rubber bands) …

Whether the collection is thermos bottles, shaving brushes, Snow White figurines or Hulk Hogan action figures, collections can take over our lives if we’re not careful, and feed into a larger problem ~ hoarding.

I visited a friend and there was nowhere to sit. She had to clear off a spot on the couch. As we sat chatting, some boxes stacked nearby fell over. I felt a claustrophobic. The dining room table and kitchen counter were all cluttered. “I wonder how she prepares a meal?” I thought. On the way to a bathroom break, I saw her bed, stacked high with clothes. “I wonder where she sleeps?” I wondered whether I should offer to help her clean. My heart grieved for my friend. She was trapped in a hoarding lifestyle.

It’s estimated that one in 20 people is a true hoarder. Medically, hoarding is a compulsive emotional, psychological disorder ~ and many of the hoarders highlighted on television shows do need intervention. Some of the symptoms of true hoarding are: (1) compulsive buying or acquiring of things (usually specific items); (2) the inability to release or get rid of anything, usually linked to anxiety or fear; (3) difficulty processing information properly in order to HoardingProblemmake decisions about possessions; (3) sometimes, a lack of organization skills; (4) a distorted sense of value – sometimes seeing value in something others consider trash or junk; (5) abnormal identification with things; (6) and emotions (like grief or anger) triggered when forced to part with things ~ feelings often rooted from past events, trauma, or tough circumstances.

It’s hard to get a true hoarder to recognize his or her disorder. Just getting rid of their things is not the answer. There must be a sense of trust.  What can we do to help? We certainly can pray for the hoarder, offer loving support and encouraging words, and assure them of God’s love. We can be patient and understanding, and we can ask questions to help the hoarder process. But in truth, a professional is often needed to help the hoarder get to the root of the problem. Hoarders who are Christians have the advantage of the power of God in their lives, and with education and biblical counsel, they can overcome their problem.

But that’s not the issue that bothers me today. I believe many of us who don’t have the medical disorder have Hoarder Hearts.

And there are a number of reasons for this… the symptoms of a Hoarder Heart:

(1) We’re basically selfish.

The Bible says that in the last days people will be selfish ~ self-centered, self-seeking, self-absorbed and self-serving.  (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Philippians 2:21; James 3:14). Sometimes we’re inclined to hoard things out of fear or self-preservation, forgetting that God knows our need and will take care of us (Matthew 6:8, 32; 1 Peter 5:7).

(2) We just love our things too much.

Why do we get so caught up in the “things” in this world when God tells us not to do this? The Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” (1 John 2:15). What has helped me have better perspective is to realize that everything in this world (except people and the Word of God) will pass away (1 John 2:17; 1 Corinthians 7:31b; 2 Corinthians 4:18). Don’t get me wrong ~ it’s not wrong to have nice things, but it’s  foolish to pour all our love and attention (and money) into things that won’t last. God wants us to surrender our desires to Him.

(3) We substitute things for what we really need.

GodInOurHeartMany times, our lust for things comes from God-hunger. Some have called this the “God-shaped hole” or “God-shaped vacuum” in our lives. We’re trying to stuff things into our lives when what we really crave is a deeper relationship with our Creator. Our cravings should be  for Him, not the things He might want (or not want) to give us.

St. Augustine reportedly said, “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.Perhaps our inner restlessness, this stirring for more, is for more of God? He has put eternity into our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) to invite us to seek Him.

(4) We do not have a contented heart.

One of the most powerful ways to combat a hoarding, greedy heart is by developing a contented heart. The Bible has much to say about this (1 Timothy 6:6-7; Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11-12). We need to guard our hearts against greed ~ life is more than an abundance of things. An antidote for a discontented heart is gratitude for all that God has already provided.

(5) We’re not making wise choices.

We just have too much stuff because we aren’t being wise about our purchases and things we bring into our homes and lives. We’re not living in discernment or obeying the promptings of God’s Spirit in our lives. He cares about our daily decisions about things. God wants us to be wise stewards of our possessions (Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 25:20-21; Luke 12:42-44), but also to know when enough is enough (1 Timothy 6:8-10).

(6) We don’t see the ministry power of our resources.

Because we are basically selfish, we either don’t see the needs of others, or we choose to ignore them. Maybe we think that others’ needs are so varied, we can’t InvestInAndLovePeoplepossibly meet them all. But we can help one person.

We can alleviate some bit of pain. We can better some person’s life. We can meet an immediate need.

Walk around your home, and you might be surprised to find many things you have that people are praying for every day… and you have two or three or four of more of them! Let love and service motivate your life (John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 4:10), rather than the drive for an endless collection of things.

Yes, you can move from being a hoarder to a helper! It begins with a change of heart and ends with open, giving hands.

[A Final Note: for help in organizing your stuff (before or after you get rid of things), check out Marcia Ramsland‘s wisdom and advice at organizingpro.com. She has several books to help you SIMPLIFY your life, time, space … and even the holidays. Get ready for next Christmas!]

– Dawn

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