Archive | September, 2009

We all, like dogs, have gone astray.

27 Sep

A few blog posts ago, I blogged about a book I was reading called The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life. Since I stayed home from church today with an unknown illness (H1N1?!?!?), I was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon a sermon by Charles Stanley, the author of that book. I had planned on listening to a sermon anyway, so I watched it.

His sermon was on Isaiah 40 and God being a God of comfort. He reminded his listeners that God knows everything tiny little thing about us–He knows so much about everything that He even knows how much the dust on the earth weighs! So we don’t have to be ashamed when approaching Him or polish ourselves up because He already knows the full truth.

And it got me thinking about the verse in Psalm 103, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Our dog, Katy, is a well-behaved dog for the most part. But there are still things that she does “wrong,” like chewing on a blanket or eating poop (ew!) from the backyard, though she knows that she shouldn’t (because of our repeated reprimands).

Though I am disgusted by her behavior in those moments, I still love Katy because what she is doing is typical dog behavior. She can’t help it. She’s a dog and she’ll act like a dog.

Similarly, when we sin against God as Christians, He is disgusted by our behavior but He still loves us. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” He knows that we are sinful human beings and can’t help ourselves. That’s why He sent Jesus to die–to be our Redeemer, our Savior!

But He doesn’t just stop there. When Katy eats poop or chews on something she shouldn’t be chewing, I don’t just walk away and say “Oh well, she’s just a dog.” I try to get the poop out of her mouth (always unsuccessfully) and pull away what she’s chewing on. Just because she’s a dog doesn’t mean I don’t try to teach her better behavior.

In a similar way, God doesn’t just abandon us to our selfish and sinful inclinations. Instead, He sends His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us, changing us from the inside out. He accepts that we are sinful human beings but doesn’t settle for that. He sees our potential in Christ and His greatest goal for us on earth is for us to be holy, like He is holy.

It helps me to remember that God is an understanding God. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Christ not only understands intimately what we are going through, He was also successful in beating these temptations! He shows us the way to victory–and that is through Himself.

Love my doggie

26 Sep

About a month and a half ago, Travis and I adopted a dog from the Boulder Humane Society named Katy. She is a year old and is an Australian Cattle Dog mix (we think she could also have some Shiba Inu, Beagle and/or Hound in her).

The adoption was dramatic. Travis and I had been talking for several months about getting a dog. At first, we wanted to buy a purebred Golden Retreiver because we knew several people with them, they were great dogs, and were big enough to run/hike with but not too big. Problem was, we couldn’t find one cheaper than $800. Travis was willing to adopt a dog if I would do the legwork (since I was the one who wanted one the most) but after a few dead ends, I kind of lost momentum on the whole dog search.

My co-worker D loves dogs and would show me the pictures of the adoptable dogs at the Boulder Humane Society every once in a while. At the beginning of August, she sent me the link one day at work and it motivated to start looking more earnestly. I checked out a book from the library about dog breeds and read more about them online.

There was an Australian Shepherd 8-week old puppy available at the shelter–a male named Bob. After reading about that dog breed and hearing good things about them, we decided that we wanted to adopt Bob. I called the Humane Society right when they opened the next morning and put a hold on him. We planned to buy dog supplies after work and drive up to Boulder to meet Bob and take him home.

About 2 hours after I called and put a hold on Bob, the Humane Society called back and said that a couple had been there looking at Bob at the exact same time as I called. They had put a hold on him–as they were actually at the shelter, their hold trumped mine. I was so devastated that I started crying. I knew that dogs, especially puppies, didn’t stick around the shelter for long–surely the other couple would come back to get him. And I was convinced that Bob was the dog for us.

I called Travis and we mulled over what to do. There was a slight possibility that the other couple wouldn’t take Bob and that I would be able to go pick him up on Saturday. Because Travis would be out of town by then, we decided to head up to Boulder anyway, just to meet him so that we would know if we wanted him or not, if the call did come.

Since we were at the shelter anyway, we looked around at the other dogs. That’s when we saw Katy. Travis had been hearing good things about Australian Cattle Dogs from a guy at work who had a couple of his own. We decided that we wanted to meet Katy. With such a cute face, so much energy, and her petite size, Katy even won over Travis, who had promised himself that we wouldn’t leave the shelter with a dog.

We left with Katy.

Since she is a year old, she’s pretty much done growing, she was totally house trained, and she is pretty obedient to our commands. Best of all, she’s the perfect size to cuddle with me (which she loves to do!) and she’s strong (typical of her breed) so that she can still run and hike with us, once she is cured of her heartworm (a condition she had when we adopted her…but the Boulder Vet Clinic will treat her for free because we adopted her from the shelter).

Here are some pictures of our Katy girl. We love her to pieces.

OK Mom, enough with the pictures already.

OK Mom, enough with the pictures already.

Fine, just this one picture and we're done then, ok?

Fine, just this one picture and we're done then, ok?

Katy's favorite thing to do

Katy's favorite thing to do

A happy hiker

A happy hiker

Cuddling on the couch

Cuddling on the couch

Watching for squirrels

Watching for squirrels

Hugs!

Hugs!

Katy is such the perfect dog for us that I feel totally blessed by God through her. The thing that really showed us God’s providence in directing us to Katy was that the day after we adopted her, I got a call from the Humane Society saying that Bob was still available. God provided a great dog for us!

Ashamed of Affluence

24 Sep

[Disclaimer: This post is not meant to judge, since I am guilty of these same things! Instead, it is meant to be thought provoking and perhaps convicting. In my own life, those have already happened and now I want these convictions to inspire change in me.]

Last night, our church had our 2nd Focus meeting, when all the church members and prospective members come together and the pastor teaches us about what we, as a church, believe. This class is kind of review for me and Travis since we just took the new members class at Grace last year.

At some point during the night, they ask questions to the congregation like “Anyone in here have a birthday today?” or “Who in here has the highest college GPA?” Whoever has a birthday or the highest GPA gets a prize (book, gift card, etc.) Those are fun questions and it’s always interesting to see who answers what.

But there are a couple of questions they asked that just don’t sit right with me. The first night, they asked, “Who in here has the most pairs of shoes?” Last night, they asked, “Who in here has the most purses?” It probably goes without saying that women won both prizes.

And that’s entirely my point.

What would a church in Africa, a church that has a dirt floor and a couple of poorly constructed benches, a church whose members are in actual danger of dying from starvation or disease caused by dirty water, think about us? Why is a sort of accepted practice, ney even a joke, for women to be such overconsumers, especially in Christian circles?

How can we sit in our comfy warm homes surrounded by mounds of clothes, shoes, and purses and not care about those who have ONE pair of clothes, NO shoes and NOTHING to even put in a purse?

I’ll tell you how: Satan. Satan is the sneakiest, craftiest being on the planet. He is SO crafty that I guarantee you that today, after writing this post, I will wish I had a new pair of pants, new shoes, or see a cute purse that I’d like. Guarantee it. Satan uses this covetous desire in my heart just about every time I step into the sanctuary at church. I’m ashamed to admit that there are many times when I’m so distracted by my envy of other women (whether it be me wanting cute clothes or to be skinnier) that I can’t pay attention to God at all. I hate it. I hate how Satan distracts us.

Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest on September 18, “[Satan] does no come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.”

Satan is continually trying to distract us from what really matters. There is a part in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis where I believe the uncle demon tells the nephew demon that his goal is just for his target to be comfortable and to think that everything’s ok. Then he will have no need for God.

I believe Satan and his demons do have that agenda and I fall into it often. Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked Travis if I could buy some new clothes. As if I don’t have enough in my closet already!

But here’s the thing. In her book Dangerous Surrender, Kay Warren talks about being gloriously ruined for Christ, meaning being so disturbed and unsettled by the physical condition of other people, by the evil things that happen in this world, that you can never go back to your pleasant, naive little life.

I am almost there.

I would say I’m fully there but then 2 paragraphs ago, I was telling about my desire for new clothes.

I think my personal problem is that I haven’t yet gotten involved in being the solution to these woes. I see the problem but have yet to do anything about it. There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t: busyness, indecision, fear, indifference at times.

But I’ve heard it said that when you’re the one who sees a need, God intends that you be the one who fills it. And I am ready. I am ready to be used.

This Puritan Poet

12 Sep

I went to the library during the last week of August and picked up a book about dog care (since I’m pretty much starting from square one there). While I was there, I perused through the books near the front that had been selected by the library as part of a certain theme for the month.

One of those books was Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America’s First Poet. I’ve also been quasi-interested in poetry and I love biographies. Since we were heading to Minnesota on vacation, I picked it up for what I call “fun reading” (books that don’t make you think too much). 

It is a great book. While I admit that I not only find the typical history lessons boring, I can’t remember them to save my life, this kind of history is just fascinating to me. I love hearing about what life was like back in “the old days,” regardless of the age. I love hearing about people’s lives in times ranging from Biblical times, to the 1600s (during which time Anne Bradstreet lived), all the way to the 1950s. It’s not that I don’t like history; I can’t get into historical political happenings but I can get into people’s lives.

Anne Bradstreet (author of famous lines such as “If ever two were one, then surely we. / If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; / If ever wife was happy in a man, / Compare with me ye women if you can.”) was born in England in 1612. Raised in a Puritan household, she was taught to be submissive to men and her parents, to never speak her mind or ask questions, and to aspire to be a godly Puritan mother, the greatest achievement for a woman.

Whereas Anne could hold no radical ideals, her father and husband did. It was these radical ideals (the idea of creating a new Puritan nation, free from the sin and evil that characterized their native England during that time) that prompted their uprooting to start a new life in America, a land that at that time was still very undeveloped and uncivilized. They would have to endure cold winters, hard labor, near starvation, unknown diseases, and attacks from new enemies once they reached land–if they even survived the journey there.

The strength of Anne in the face of moving against her will and literally starting a whole new life in a new, undeveloped country is undoubtedly representative of the majority of Puritan women. Their faith in God, though somewhat radical at times, was unshakeable and penetrated every single aspect of their lives. Everything had spiritual significance and everything was viewed in relation to God. They prayed constantly, about everything from the most practical matters to the most spiritual ones. Because for them, there was no such distinct. If your milk curdled surprisingly early, it must have been God’s way of showing His displeasure. Everything revealed the state of one’s soul.

I admire their constant prayer and commitment to their faith. I admire their work ethic and bravery. I also admire Anne’s courage to venture out as a women writer, especially as a poet. The author of this book, Charlotte Gordon, makes the point repeatedly that Anne was being very audacious in her ventures as a female poet. It had never been attempted by a woman, as the realm of poetry was strickly the territory of men. But Anne, through her own family’s wealth and other fortunate opportunities she had during her childhood, was not only extremely bright, she had also received an education, something very rare for a woman in that day.

Besides it being obvious that I find all this information captivating, it has had implications for my own walk with the Lord. I see my old paltry prayer life in contrast with Anne’s and am chastized for not striving to deepen my relationship with Lord through that avenue. I see her dedication to research, writing, and studying the Scriptures on top of her immense, never-ending list of duties and wonder why I can’t find the time to dedicate even 30 minutes some days to my own studies? I see her life-encompassing view of God and am saddened by how much of my life I live in ignorance of Him and His ways.

But then I read about her doubts, her weaknesses (perceived by none other than herself), her worries and fears and unwomanly emotions (though she had the self-control to channel them exclusively through her poetry, instead of the outbursts I am prone to). And I see that often times, how people see us externally doesn’t often match how we see ourselves internally. It is easy to portray having it all together on the outside when everything is in shambles on the inside. For all the Puritans strivings toward purity, they were still sinful humans when they left this earth, just like all of us. What great assurance it is that we are all human, all in the same boat of needing a Savior! I often get down on myself because I feel like I’m not doing as much as “others,” like they’re making use of their lives and I’m wasting mine.

What really matters is our relationship with God, not how we manage our time or what we achieve. I finally finished my study of Romans today (only took me 8 1/2 months!) and Paul reminded the Romans at the very end that God is one with the ability to strengthen us for the obedience of faith; we are not. We are utterly and totally dependent on God for our lives of faith; there is nothing therein that we can or have accomplished ourselves.

This comes as an immense relief to me, for I often struggle with doubt, uncertainty, angry outbursts, indifference, laziness, and guilt. It is great knowledge that I can run to God in those moments of struggle and rely on Him to restore to me what I am lacking, so that I am able to glorify Him through all aspects of my life, even when it feels that I am a horribly lost cause.

Paul also reminded the Romans that this strengthening for obedience happens through the gospel, through the knowledge of what Christ has done for us on the cross and what our relationship with God now is as a result. Time and time again, God will lead us back to the gospel as the truth by which we live. Without the gospel, there is no hope. Without Christ, there is no life. Without God’s love, there is no meaning.

Whatever question may be circling through your mind, even if the answer seems very far off and totally indiscernable, the solution is always Christ and the truths within the gospel. God brings you through the bogs of confusion so that you may reach the open meadow of understanding.