Stay With It

The Winans had a song that said, “It’s good to know He’ll be there if ever I fall. It’s better to know that I don’t have to fall at all.” I always liked that song.

But the truth is, more often than not, failure may not be an option, but is a likely eventuality.  Everybody screws up.  No one is immune to the employment of the phrase, “I’m sorry.”

We were designed to strive for perfection.  More importantly, we were designed for the process TO perfection. Some of us start a little bit farther from the goal than others.

I was never what you’d call an organized individual.  I had some tendencies toward order and organization, but they were certainly never cultivated at an early age.  I was just one big distraction, like a dog darting from squirrel to squirrel.  This did not make for neatness or consistency.  I never realized what something like that would cost me.

So, I struggled.  It was one of many struggles, the origins of which I would not fully understand until I was very near forty years old.  Having understood them, I still struggled.  I still struggle to this day.

Much like some of my most difficult struggles, I hated the behavior long before I was ever able to get a handle on it.  And try, though I might, even the most practical strategies produced no results.  I was tired, discouraged and frustrated.  I felt defeated.

And yet…

I kept hearing the words of the Apostle Paul to the Roman church, ringing in my heart. The things I want to do are not the things I do.  Why do I keep doing the things I hate? It’s not me doing it.  It’s the nature of sin dwelling in me. “Oh, wretched man that I am.  Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”

Sounds a lot like, “The devil made me do it.”

But that’s not altogether far from the truth.  The sin nature into which we are all born takes on different incarnations, based on the history of our individual families.  As much as we don’t want to own it, a lot of the stuff that we despise about ourselves are negative family traits that no one has taken a stand against…until we stand up and say, “This far…no farther.”

That’s a hard line to draw in the sand, especially if it is a sin nature that goes back multiple generations.  You may be the first one to take a stand against it and it may cost you what you think is EVERYTHING.   What you gain is so much more than what you lost.  You gain the assurance that the generations to follow will never struggle with those things the way you did.  You are redeeming your own heritage.

That is why I LOVE IT when Paul continues his letter with a word of comfort.  “There is, therefore, NO CONDEMNATION, to those who are in Christ Jesus…”

Each and every one of us struggle with things that turn us inside out.  We despise what they do to us and to those around us, but we just can’t shake it loose.  They leave us feeling guilty and unworthy to come before the Lord with any brand of request.  We hate the idea of coming back to Him, time and again, with the same old sin; the same bad habits.

And yet…

That is EXACTLY what He expects, even encourages us to do!

Proverbs 24:16 says a just man falls seven times but rises again.  It’s the GETTING UP TO TRY AGAIN that justifies us.  It makes us righteous.  The fact that we keep coming boldly to the throne of grace to find mercy (for our repentance) and grace (to try again) in our times of need is what brings us closer to the perfection that we seek; closer to being more like the God we love and serve.

So, here I am struggling and failing and struggling again to become just a little bit more organized and focused that I was the day before.  I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was.  I am comfortable, but not complacent.  And I will get there.  WE will get there.  All we gotta do is stay with it.


The “Not-So-New” Normal

Ok, so…it just so happens, I love to cook.  A lot. I love to spend a day playing a movie, concert dvd or set of cds that I’ve played a hundred thousand times while I make a vat full of chilli and a peach or apple cobbler, all so I could invite friends over to eat, watch a movie or just hang out and talk.  I would drop off pound cakes or cookies to friends at church just to see them smile. I didn’t always have money to spend so I would sow into the kingdom with food and fellowship.  It’s a gift. I took just as much pleasure and joy from preparing and sharing my thoughts time and talent as I hope I gave.
Then, life happened.  One “series-of-unfortunate-events” after another came upon my household. These events left me completely bereft of the friends I used to share those gifts with. At the same time, it caused my household to turn in on itself. We became a self-destructive unit. The time, space and equipment to cook, serve or have anyone over was completely gone and my heart would not let me consider doing these things anymore. My tragedies had changed a very integral part of me.
For more than a decade I watched as pieces of my identity fell off as the “stuff” of my life was stripped away.  I didn’t care about the stuff so much.  What bothered me were the pieces of ME that I just couldn’t seem to find.But I kept confessing the Word of God.  I kept praying. I kept declaring. I loved with all that I have left.The song that comes to mind this instant is a Switchfoot song called, “Sing it Out.”
“I’m on the run
I’m on the ropes this time
Where is my song?
I’ve lost the song of my soul tonight”Sing it out, Sing it out
Take what is left of me
Make it a melody”Sing it out, Sing out loud
I can’t find the words to sing
You’d be my remedy”My song, My song
I’ll sing with what’s left of me”
And that is how I felt.  How I FEEL.  I took all that I had left and gave it to the God who made me.  And by bits and pieces, just as He did in Jeremiah 18:4, the God who made me began to “make me again, another.” After everything that could be shaken, was shaken and all I had left was a handful of promise and purpose, God took those promises He made to me and the purposes for which He created me and began to rebuild ME. Pieces that were once removed are being replaced…maybe not in the same way that they once were, but in a way that fits God’s purposes for me much better.

As much as I am tempted to stop and cower at any given time during this difficult season,  I keep moving. I keep singing.  I keep serving. I keep laying EVERYTHING in the hands of my most capable Savior and leaving myself at the foot of the cross. The Good Shepherd keeps leading me, guiding  me and restoring my soul. Parts of me that I thought were lost forever are once again coming into place and purpose.  I take greater joy in those activities now. They have greater significance, because I remember what my life was like without them.

I spent the weekend making pound cakes, cooking dinner and making my sons clean up (to those of you who know me: I know, right?  Will wonders never cease?)!  I was playing movies and talking on the phone and singing and singing and singing. Oh, and did I mention singing?  Who knows? I may be making crochet throw blankets before the summer is over, at this rate!
So I am now establishing a new routine with things that I once thought had gone the way of the dinosaur. To my surprise, I am becoming my old self again…or rather, the most myself I have ever been.

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