Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

Friday, July 15, 2011

“Blurry Vision”

When I was in the third grade, it was realized that my vision wasn’t the best. I have never really been fond of wearing glasses, I hated it actually, and being involved in sports and such my parents allowed me to get contacts in the sixth grade. What a difference, and how liberating to just pop them in my eyes and go. Now in my late thirties, I continue to prefer contacts over glasses.

It was a normal day. I rolled out of bed at the sound of my alarm, (well after hitting snooze a few times), and headed into the bathroom to get ready for work. One of the very first things I do in the morning is put my contacts in so I can see clearly to apply makeup. If I tried to do otherwise, I would most likely resemble a four-year old’s attempt to “look like mommy”. I finished getting ready, had some breakfast, and headed to the office. But during the drive it seemed as if there was something in my eye. I blinked a few times and everything was fine.

I plopped down in front of the computer screen and had just begun to get some work done when my eye began to hurt once more. I reached up and gently maneuvered my contact back and forth to try to relieve the discomfort. But instead of retrieving an eyelash, or a piece of lint, there on the tip of my finger lay two separate halves of my contact lens. Oh great! Now, if you know me at all, you will understand that this really presented a problem because I am blind as a bat without my corrective lenses. And those of you who are contact wearers will also understand how it feels to have one contact in and one contact out – blurry vision to say the least.

So, bull-headed as I am, I stuck it out instead of running home to get a replacement. Squinting most of the day, I would close my right eye when there was really something I needed to see or read. But as the hours passed, I began to get a headache and feel a bit nauseous. I was stubborn and had my mind made up that I was not going to make a trip all the way home and come back again. I would just stick it out.

It wasn’t until I had put in my hours at the office that I realized driving home may also be an issue. I hopped in my van and headed for home, relieved that a replacement was waiting there for me and it would not be long until I would be seeing clearly once more. But driving proved to pose quite a challenge. In order for me to see well enough to drive, I had to close my right eye, which totally impaired my depth perception and my judgment of distance. More than once I found myself creeping up a bit too far on the vehicle ahead of me. Who knows what may have been coming at my right side that I never even saw due to ‘my blind eye’.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Because of our stubbornness and unwillingness to change we turn a ‘blind eye’ to the things of the world. We drive around in life with altered judgment as we peer out of one good eye. Our depth perception cannot reach beyond ourselves, the needs of others remain unnoticed. The compromises we make impair our vision and we miss out on all the opportunities God has for our lives. We are content with squinting, instead of making full use of the immeasurable gifts that God has given – to see fully through two eyes – wide open.

We as humans need help. We cannot do this life on our own – when we try to, we stumble and we fall. But God has provided us with corrective lenses, the truth of His word and a passion for His people. When we look at Him through new eyes, the blurry vision is removed and we can see Him clearly – becoming more like Him!

“And we, who with unveiled faces [clear vision] all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

I need a truer vision, Lord, a vision filled with Thee,
To see the needy world again with eyes willing to see.
A world where people are hurting and hungry every day,
A world that’s ready and waiting to hear what You would say.

I need a wider vision, Lord, a vision filled with Thee,
To see that lonely woman down the street from me.
The teenager who’s all mixed up, the child who’s been abused,
The day-to-day cares in my neighborhood. Lord, I want to be used.

Give me a new vision, Lord. A vision filled with Thee,
To see the world and my neighborhood as Your eyes would see.
Help me use my gifts, dear Lord, in ways that glorify You,
To act with loving kindness toward those with a different view.

A truer, wider, new vision, Lord. That’s what I need,
To carry out Your commands in word and thought and deed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

“God has a wonderful plan for your life…and so does everyone else”

I tend to be a perfectionist. I set high standards for myself and when I miss the mark I become laden with guilt. Apparently there are others out there who deal with the same issues. According to the studies of psychologist Roy Baumeister, the average person spends approximately 2 hours a day feeling guilty. For 39 minutes of that time, people feel moderate to severe guilt that may limit their abilities. This does not refer to the standards we set for ourselves only, but also includes the expectations of others. I don’t know about you, but I can’t meet my own expectations, let alone everyone else’s.

The good news is – it’s not that way with God. God is perfect in every way, yet we can meet His expectations for us because His expectations are realistic. Isn’t it interesting that there are some people you will never be able to please, but you can please God? It’s mind-boggling! Now I’m not referring to any standard of perfection or sinlessness that can only be obtained in heaven. God has called us to become more like Christ and that in and of itself is a higher standard that we are to strive for. I’m referring to God’s plans for our lives versus people‘s plans for us. It is essential for me to discover His will, because when I learn what He expects of me, I don’t have to try to live up to everyone else’s standards. If I am not living out God’s plan, then I am serving man and not God.

God’s expectations for me are perfect. He knows what I am, and what I am not, capable of. And unlike our critics, He does not expect what we cannot give. He sets His standard for us based on the gifts and talents He has blessed us with. It is important to note though, that although God does not expect too much of us, He also does not expect too little – there’s always two extremes. There are those who strive to do more than they should and others who do less than they should. Both can lead to disaster.

There are benefits to God-pleasing and pitfalls to people-pleasing. When we strive to please God, we become better people. When we seek to please men, we become bitter people. When we strive to please God, we are filled with joy. When we seek to please men, we are stripped of joy. When we strive to please God, we receive strength. When we seek to please men, we become exhausted. There is peace and freedom found when we look for God’s approval, but only guilt and frustration when we strive after the approval of men.

We are called to possess a servant's heart. But to serve out of love rather than out of obligation. Galatians 5:13 says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free {from the expectations of men}. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."  When we serve man as unto the Lord, we serve in love. When we serve man out of obligation only, we rob ourselves of the blessing of servanthood.

When we fall short of the expectations of man, we tend to judge ourselves unworthy, or consider ourselves a failure when in reality we our God’s beloved. Listen to these beautiful words taken from the book, “Abba’s Child” by Brennan Manning,

“We ourselves are the greatest obstacle to our own nobility of soul. We judge ourselves unworthy servants, and that judgment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we need is a glimpse of the true self – unself-conscious, unpretentious, immersed in life, absorbed in the present moment, breathing in God as naturally as a fish swimming in water. Sanctity lies in discovering my true self, moving toward it, and living out of it. ‘Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. You are precious in my eyes, because you are honored and I love you…the mountains may depart, the hills may be shaken, (you may disappoint yourself and others), but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken’ (Isaiah 43:1, 4; 54:10). Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life. The basis of my personal worth is not my possessions, my talents, not esteem, (or approval) of others, or reputation…I stand anchored now in God before whom I stand naked, this God who tells me, ‘You are my beloved.’ Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence.”

Amen and Amen.

“If only we all could apply some extra grace, this world would become a better place…”