The Rest of Your Story

Sunday I was preparing for my small group and I was reading the story of Adam and Eve. We all know the story – God created Adam, and put him in the perfect place, the garden of Eden. God knew Adam needed company, so he created the perfect partner, a woman. Adam and Eve knew no fear, no shame – only love and devotion to their Creator.

And everything was going just fine until satan’s hand puppet – the snake – came into the picture. (I’ve always hated snakes, and you should too – I mean really, satan himself handpicked that despicable creature to run his plays. But back to the story…)

I’ll go ahead and call it – the chick in the story made the first bad decision. But her hubs didn’t exactly call a spade a spade when it was his turn. He compounded the problem by listening to his wife.

That little scenario plays out day after day after day. And it doesn’t have to be husband and wife – one kid makes a bad decision to smoke weed and then drags another kid with him, or a boss makes a decision to lie to win a deal and forces a subordinate to go along with him. Bad decision begets bad decision begets…

No one is immune to bad decision making. It can be something little, like telling a white lie to get out of working at the school’s book fair to a much worse decision, like having an affair outside of marriage.

But no matter the bad decision, once our spirit kicks in and we realize our sin, the initial emotions are typically the same – fear of what God or others will now think of us, fear that we will be found out, and shame that we ever made such a horrible choice.

Adam and Eve felt all those emotions, too. They made clothing out of some spare fig leaves because they were ashamed and hid from God because they were fearful. Shame and fear. We can all relate to that part of the story.

But for some reason, many of us stop right there. We stop at shame and fear, never reading the rest of the story. Or if we read it, we don’t seem to think it applies to us.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

Let’s be real – God knew exactly where they were and what they had done. Nothing surprises God, nothing gets by Him. God knows exactly where we are every day, and He knows everything you and I have done as well. But that doesn’t stop God from looking for us, calling out to us, searching for us despite our choice to disconnect from Him. He never stops calling out to us, no matter what choices we have made.

And the other truth to learn from this story is this: God’s mercy and compassion never fail, no matter what choices you have made. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) God knew they were cold and they were ashamed, and He showed them mercy and compassion by providing more than what they deserved in the form of warm clothing made from animal skins.

Yes, Adam and Eve suffered earthly consequences for their choices, just as we all suffer when we make bad decisions.

But God never stopped calling for them, and He showed mercy and compassion by providing more than they deserved.

And if you need more proof that Jesus is God in man form, I don’t know what to tell you, because that ‘s EXACTLY what Jesus does as well.

So don’t stop with the shame and fear part of your story. Go to Jesus with your sin, repent, and write a new chapter in your book – one where you experience the forgiveness, the closeness, the mercy, the compassion and the provision of your Creator.

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Blessings!
Leigh

A Gardener I’m Not

Here is a picture of my planters as they currently sit on my deck.

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Nope, I didn’t stage the photo. This is exactly what I’ve let my pots and plants turn into over time.

Now I know what you may be thinking – that ain’t so bad – I mean, it’s February and it’s been another nasty cold winter, so dead plants and pots that are all askew just go with the wintery season we’re in right now.

Wellll, not so much.

You see every spring I ask my husband if we can plant some “cute” flowers around the deck. And he gives me the same look every time – the “Well, sure we can. We can also just drive down I-85 and fling money out of the car windows, too.”

After 25.3 years of marriage he knows me very well. He knows I start out with a bang, with very good intentions. He knows I have my own gardening gloves and a favorite little trowel, and I will indeed spend exactly one Saturday morning after the last freeze creating very pretty planters and putting them exactly where I want them on the deck.

Aaannnndddd that’s where my involvement starts to fade and eventually just die off all together. Kind of like my plants. Now I do I tell all my plants the truth – “It’s a cruel world I’m bringing you into. If you’re gonna survive, you’re gonna have to do it on your own.”

Isn’t our spiritual life like that at times?

We have some mountaintop experience. Maybe it’s a moment in church or we attend a men’s or women’s conference and hear a fresh word that sends us soaring to the top of Mt. Faith. And then, if we aren’t careful to water and fertilize our spirits, slowly but surely we slide back down that mountain to a state of – well, just look back at the picture of my planters.

Beautiful, thriving plants on my deck will only happen with constant attention, making sure they have water, sunlight, fertilizer and gosh if someone could help me figure out how to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out of them that would be great. But if I treat them like I typically do every year, I won’t have to wait until February to see the sad result.

Again, our spiritual life is like that too.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

If we want to grow and flourish and bear spiritual fruit we are going to need to spend the time reading the Bible, studying God’s Word and seeking His will for our lives. If we don’t, well, take another look at my planters. You get the picture.

Blessings for a warm weekend!
Leigh

Humble ≠ Silent

“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” 

And there you have it, the words President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast last week.

He’s stirred up quite the ‘ol hornet’s nest, hasn’t he?

I’m not going to write anything new on those words – there’s plenty out there for you to read from both sides of “the aisle.” No, I’m going to share what really struck a nerve with me from President Obama’s speech because it doesn’t seem to be getting a whole bunch of attention.

But it should.

“So humility I think is needed.  And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments.  Between church and between state.  The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most Western developed countries.  And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state.  Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.  And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion…”

Really, Mr. President? Do you really think Christians in America are living in a culture where we can freely worship and don’t feel coerced?

I know what some of you are thinking. There’s no American military forcing me to practice one religion over another. No armed militia shows up at my church and forces me to stop praying. You’re right.

But there is a prevalent idea permeating through society and being reinforced by many who make a living as government officials – an idea which says, “Sure, you can practice your Christianity. Just keep it to yourself.”

That’s working out well for America, doncha think?

Gosh knows I’ve had it with the “Holiday Tree,” no prayer in public schools and the current state of political overcorrectness. The systematic removal of Christian ideals and practices in society has led us to a place of moral decay and filth. Without Christian principles as the basis for laws, what do you have? You have a culture full of narcissistic people living according to whatever feels good to them at the time. Oh wait – that’s EXACTLY what we have going on now in America.

I can list story after story of Christians being persecuted in this country because they have the gall to stand up for Jesus in a school, a business, a public setting. So yeah, we Christians DO feel fear because heaven knows if we speak out for Jesus and against anything non-Biblical, well we can just have the current issue of the day rammed down our throats and be forced to comply or lose our businesses and our reputations… So much for worshiping freely…

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Our government may not be pressuring anyone to practice a certain religion, but by limiting when and where and how Christians can practice the faith on which this country was founded, well, Mr. President, that IS pressure not to practice “any faith at all.”

So, Mr. President I agree that we should all be humble and seek God. But if you do, if you really humbly seek God Almighty you’ll find He’s on record as being the maker of heaven and earth, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. You and others in these anti-Christian groups can try and get around it, fake it, deny it and even change God into what you want Him to be. But problem numero uno for unbelievers and lukewarm Christians alike is the fact that God doesn’t change because you want Him to or because you’re uncomfortable with who He really is. That fact will be a huge problem for some people when they are finished here on earth and try to explain away their unbelief in, their denial of, their contempt for the Creator of the Universe.

“Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the Lord your God. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.” (Deuteronomy 6:13-19)

I would comment on that passage, but I think it speaks for itself.

Oh I’ll walk humbly with God, Mr. President.

But for the record, humble ≠ silent.

Blessings!
Leigh

All That Extra Time

6:00 a.m. – WAKE UP!!!
6:10 – Stumble into the kitchen looking for coffee.
6:11 – Coffee (Thank you, Keurig).
6:15 – 6:45 – Quiet time.
6:45 – 7:15 – Quick shower & attempt at some amount of make-up (didn’t want to scare the general public today).
7:30 – Pick my sister up for work. No, we don’t work together. The fuel pump went out in her car yesterday, so I’m taking her to work while they fix her car.
7:50 – Arrive at Kroger.   Yes, I was at Kroger before 8:00 a.m. You know why? Because 1)It’s quiet in Kroger at 7:50 a.m. and 2)If I didn’t go then, we’d still have “no food” (at least that’s what my son says) in the house because the rest of my day was going to be a doozie.
8:50 – Unpack and put up groceries. Yes, I spent an hour in Kroger because 1)I agreed with my son we had “no food” and so I had a double cart full of fruits, vegetables, Oreos, peanut butter & chocolate Pop-Tarts, etc., and 2) I coupon. (Let me go ahead and apologize to the man who strolled up behind me in the checkout line with only 5 items. If the cashier hadn’t already scanned my Kroger frequent-buyer-track-all-my-spending-so-I-can-save-50-cents-on-a box-of-Hot-Pockets card I would have let you check out ahead of me.)
9:15 – Inhale breakfast.
9:30 – Head to church.
11:00 – Leave church, run through post office and office supply store.
11:45 – Home for lunch with my husband.

As I was reheating chili for lunch (fixing a sandwich from scratch just seemed to complicated for me today) I had a flashback to 9 years ago in the same kitchen, setting the table for my husband and me for lunch.

It was one of the first days of school in 2005. My daughter was a big girl in the 5th grade (as if). My son had just started first grade. It was one of the first days he went to school all day, graduating from half-day kindergarten to full-day elementary school. My husband came home for lunch that day and said, “So whatcha gonna do with all this extra time?”

Uuuuhhhhhh….

Most moms would jump for joy, clap their hands and shriek in ecstasy over the extra time they just received, as if those 2 ½ hours were a long awaited, finally opened gift promised back when you brought your little bundle of joy home from the hospital. (“If you can survive 5 ½ years with this tiny little being sucking every second and ounce of time, strength & patience you ever thought you had, then one day, when he reaches elementary school age you will indeed receive the gift of more time…”)

Not me. I had a little (translation=ginormous) freakout.

Oh…my…gosh… I never really thought about it or prepared for it. What WAS I gonna do? Extra laundry? Eat more Pringles? Bake a cake? Watch an extra episode of Dr. Phil?

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WHAT WAS I GONNA DO WITH “ALL THAT EXTRA TIME???”

I’m fairly certain what followed next included 2 boxes of Kleenex and some Visine.

But somehow I managed to stay pretty busy over the last 10 years, some of my days more chaotic than others. Currently I’m in a high octane, all out chaotic stage of life. I’m not complaining because I’ve got an awesome family, great friends and a fun new job. It’s just that I am constantly finding myself just slightly this side of crazy. And I’d love to have back a little of “all that time” I guess I had all those years ago.

But I don’t. And I’m trying to laugh my way through the craziness, talking to Jesus more and more so that I approach the chaos with grace and joy instead of stress and dread. So if you see me in my car talking non-stop, I might be on a work related phone call, but I’m more likely praying for something – an idea, a solution, a little less stress and yes, a little more time…

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ain’t that the truth. Just watch the evening news.) Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

I haven’t always made the best use of my time, and I surely haven’t always understood what the Lord’s will has been in my life. But as I’ve gotten older – perhaps because I clearly understand that time has a beginning and an end, I’ve tried to get better at both.

Make the most of all the time God has given you. Live wisely, don’t be foolish, seek and understand God’s will for you life.

Now if you will excuse me, I’m late to pick up my now 6’2” 15 year old son for a 4:30 haircut… so much for “all that extra time…”

Blessings!
Leigh

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