There Are No Mundane Tasks

Never A Dull Moment – Week 1, Your Turn to Talk

We made it: one whole week of journeying together, seeing God in the daily, being consistent (for me… sort of!) in our times with the Lord!  Don’t miss the key point wrapped up in that little parenthetical, my Friends.  We do not have to be perfect.  It is OK when things don’t go exactly as planned.  There are days when we are going to feel overwhelmed, but Isaiah 43:10 says we WON’T BE.  I have a business partner who says, “overwhelmed is a choice” and she’s right.

Did you keep going?  Did the Holy Spirit remind you of Himself?  Did you throw up a prayer as you were running out the door?  Are you reading this today?  Good for you!  Way to persevere!  Running the race looks gangly and awkward sometimes, but you just don’t stop.  There’s a reward waiting at the end AND there will be lots of awesome along the way!

So… your turn to talk.  The challenge for today is to consider the “mundane” tasks for which you are responsible and then open your eyes to see the blessings they represent.  I love looking at life this way.  After all, if we are created to do good works which God planned in advance for us to do (we were, see Ephesians 2:10) and if all our days are ordained (they are, see Psalm 139) then there are no mundane tasks, right?

Happy journaling!

Are You So Foolish?

I spent the first part of this morning like I always do: up, coffee, dressed, breakfast and carpool for Kid #1, call Kid #2 to say I’m on the way, breakfast and coffee for said Kid #2, carpool route 2 and home again.  I skipped my typical first moment in the Word in favor of one more “snooze” – ding #1… you’re off to a GREAT start, Joeli.  On the way home, my mind races through the day and I tell myself passionately: You are NOT doing ANYTHING until you have your quiet time and PRAY over this day!  WooHoo!  Go me!

Arrive home: the puppy is literally black up to all four of her “knees!”  I make my way to the backyard to determine the cause of this MESS that has also found its way onto my just swept floor.  There, I find my FAVORITE sunglasses, the ones I have searched for several times in the last 36 hours, TOTALLY destroyed by said puppy!  Ugh.  Then my phone dings and I get distracted for a few minutes.  I look at the clock and 30 minutes have flown by.  How. Does. This. HAPPEN?!

Ok!  That is IT!  NOTHING is stopping me from opening my Bible, hitting my knees and restarting this day!  WooHoo!  Go me!  LOL!

I open up Journey and what do my always amazed eyes see but God’s precious, right on time, message to me; one He has delivered many times before and surely will deliver many times more: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? (Gal. 3:3)”

Um… no Sir. … But “I am sure of this, that [You] who started a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

WooHoo!  GO. GOD!

[Deep breath!] Thank You, Father, for grace upon grace upon grace… upon grace, UPON GRACE!  Thank you for meeting me RIGHT where I am in ways that never cease to amaze me and make me smile.  I am loved by You.  You have provided for me and it feels really nice to know that ALL things are in Your hand, nothing is impossible FOR YOU and You do not expect me to finish this race in my own flesh.  WooHoo!  Go YOU! 

In Jesus’ sweet, faithful name… from the grateful heart of Your easily distracted, much loved Daughter.  Amen.

Arm in Arm with the Lord

As He often does, God has been weaving a theme into my life over the course of the last few weeks. I am a Type A, “make the plan, work the plan, check the plan off the list” kind of girl and there are many times that my desire for control and perfection sabotage my walk with the Lord. I get so frustrated with my imperfections that I forget God is well aware of the sin in this girl He calls daughter. And in my frustration, my default can be to give up or feel like an entire day is “wasted” because of one missed step. In my desire to be perfect or nothing, I forget about grace and I grow deaf to the whisper of the Holy Spirit. I forget that life is a journey WITH God. He doesn’t save us and send us on our way. He walks WITH us. This week was so busy and so full of opportunities for me to fall, but God (I so love that phrase!) has repeated over and over again that my job is to follow His lead and allow Him to make and execute the plan in His time.

My online Bible study of Esther landed on week four and the most quoted verse from the book, Esther 4:14. Like Esther, I can’t let fear or worry or my inability to control the outcome keep me from what God has chosen for me. We are indeed living each moment of our lives “for such a time as this.” Even Mordecai simply trusted that that deliverance his people needed would come from somewhere or someone else if Esther did not speak to the king on their behalf. The phrase “who knows” is supremely rich. Mordecai didn’t pretend to know how it would all work out, but he knew it would because he trusted in Sovereign God. And in verse 16, Esther completely surrendered control to God: “If I perish, perish.”

Esther reminded me of Joel 2:14 and Daniel 3:15-18. The prophet said that repentance may bring a relenting from the Lord – who knows? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God was able to save them from the fiery furnace, but declared that even if He didn’t (who knows?), they would not serve an idol, but would bow only to God Himself. Week Two, Day Three of Beth Moore’s Children of the Light, “A Theology of Walking,” reminded me that this life is a journey of ups and downs, victorious parades, seasons of crawling, sprints, beautiful strides and lots of stumbling, less-than-graceful moments. The merciful grace of God, however, ensures that the Believer is always held by God’s righteous right hand (Is. 41:10). What is it that God requires? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8); to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); to press on (Phil. 3:13-14); to know that LIFE, with all its peaks and valleys, is meant to make us look more like Jesus.

When we follow after God, we will know peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea (Is. 448:18). Our peace won’t be like the motionless, stagnant waters of a pond, but the twisting, turning waters of a river, flowing over rocks and rolling over rapids. Our righteousness won’t be automatic and look like perfection, but it will ebb and flow consistently and surely – because it comes from Jesus alone. I found myself, once again answering the question Paul asked the Galatians: “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort (Gal. 3:2-3)?”

Over and over again God has been showing me that it is OK to not know and just trust – it is BEST, in fact. I can almost never really control the outcomes of my situations and circumstances, but I CAN walk with God and trust HIM with the outcome. I can stop trying to “win” my own favor with God by observing the law and remember that it was won for me on the cross. And that is BEST because as tightly as I grasp everything and every person and every situation, what I REALLY want, in my heart of hearts to simply walk with God: to know Him and to experience Him and not miss what He is doing. And as far as “the plan” goes… ultimately the one I want is the one God has in mind anyway.

The Perfection Problem

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

 My relationship with perfectionism is a lifelong one.  I don’t think either of my parents would say that they tried to instill it in me, but somewhere along the way, I certainly picked it up!  Way back when I was getting ready to graduate from college and start life in the “real world” I dressed up my perfectionist tendencies in the form of a well-crafted interview answer:

 Interviewer: What is your greatest weakness?

Me: I think it is my tendency toward perfectionism.  I want things to be done well and I strive to be the best I can possibly be.  If I am going to do something, I want it to be done right.  If I am going to be something, I want to be the best.

Pretty good answer, eh?  I mean who wouldn’t hire someone whose GREATEST WEAKNESS is perfectionism?!  Ugh.  Me… I would not want to hire someone whose greatest weakness is perfectionism.  I honestly do not want to BE someone whose greatest weakness is perfectionism.  So, why in the WORLD would I want to work with someone who had the same neurosis?  Perfectionism makes me question EVERYTHING.  It makes me feel like NOTHING is ever good enough.  It cripples me and keeps me from trying new things.  It makes me slow to start for fear that the finish will not be well.  Gracious.  Wonder how many jobs I lost because of that “well-crafted” interview answer?  Anyway…

 Just in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I have long since realized that my “greatest weakness” – my tendency toward perfectionism – is not REALLY a strength… no matter how I tried to spin it for my potential employers.  In reality, I knew even way back then that wanting everything to be “perfect” was not really a good thing, but I figured I had to say SOMETHING in an interview and I SURE wasn’t going to say that REALLY my greatest weakness is my perpetual tardiness or my inclination to overreact or propensity for procrastination!  I knew THAT wouldn’t get me the job!  And those things only touch the TIP of the iceberg!  But I digress (another trait I have!).  That’s another blog for another day. 

The point here is: perfectionism and I go way back.  And whenever it comes up, especially in Bible study, I get a little antsy.  I start thinking of my self-imposed checklists and all the blanks I have left unfilled in 25+ years of Bible studies, the dates left unchronicled in my journal, the Sundays I skipped, the prayers that went unprayed and on and on and on.  Not to even mention all the harsh words spoken, angry thoughts, inconsiderate ways and unkind actions I’ve taken over the years – all as a professing Christian.  I am in no way, shape or form perfect, but in Matthew 5:48, Jesus said to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Yikes.  Just YIKES!  I know intellectually that I can never REALLY BE “perfect”.  As my children say, “Only Jesus was perfect, Mom.” 

So, what do I do with a verse like Matthew 5:48?  Well, the first thing I do is praise God that I am under the blood and grace of Jesus Christ; that EVERY sin, when confessed, will be forgiven (1 John 1:9).  Then I remember that, in Christ, I have been chosen and adopted and am now a child of God.  As such, I am blessed, redeemed, forgiven and DEARLY loved.  (See Eph. 1:3-8, Eph 5:1 and 1 John 3:1)  God doesn’t do things half-way, He LAVISHES His love on me as His child and completely transformed me when He saved me (2 Cor. 5:17).  I figure, if I can love my Kiddos so much that it literally makes my chest hurt even when they make mistakes, don’t use proper table manners, forget their backpacks, lose their jackets, talk ugly, act crazy etc. etc. etc. then SURELY the God of the universe will do what He has promised and love me unfailingly even when I mess up.  He SAID to come to Him and repent.  He SAID that He would never leave me of forsake me (Deut. 31:6).  He SAID that He would catch me when I stumble (Psalm 37:24).  He SAID to fight the good fight and press on (1 Tim. 6:12 & Phil 3:12).  Obviously, He KNOWS that this life will be, on many days, an uphill climb.  He KNOWS that we need grace and mercy for every day (Lam. 3:22-23).  He KNOWS that we NEED Him to remember that we are but dust (Psalm 103:13-14). 

So, when He says to “be perfect as I am perfect” I know He means to keep choosing Him – every day, in every encounter, with every thought, in word and deed.  I know He knows me better than I know myself and was well aware of what He was getting and who He was saving when He went to the cross on my behalf.  My part is to keep my gaze fixed on Him; to keep letting my heart be changed by His Word and His Holy Spirit.  And little by little, my freshly washed heart will overflow with more Christ-like behavior, more loving thoughts, more gentle words and a more radiant face that reflects His glory – rather than my own worry, distress or frustration.  I praise Him that my “wholeness [my “perfection”] is firmly rooted in [Him].  To live a life of perfection is not to make all A’s or to never miss a Sunday at church; rather it is to live a life true to [my] identity as [a child] of an utterly untemptable God who never changes, shows no partiality, and has no darkness in Him at all (Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick, “Perfection: Part Two” in James: Mercy Triumphs, 149).”  Thank God that IN CHRIST, “perfectionism” can actually be a good thing!  In Christ, striving toward perfection is RIGHT because it means drawing to the Only One who is truly Perfect.