Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Puffy Pirate Shirts & Pink Floyd

I'm sort of an enigma I suppose.  I love deep thoughts - love to be challenged by scripture and the meaning of life.  But I'm also a big goofball and I enjoy a good laugh sometimes.  Like today - I cannot stop laughing at myself.  I'm wearing a shirt that is reminiscent of the "pirate shirt" from Seinfeld.  "But I don't want to be a pirate!" keeps going through my head.  Every time I look at it I giggle and remember that ridiculous show about nothing that set the standard for sitcoms for years to come.

Also - I love Christian music and even worked in Christian radio for a long time.  But I also like Pink Floyd and listened to "The Wall" the other day while I folded laundry and ironed.  I actually gained a lot of insight into Mr. Floyd.  He was an interesting character.  My I-pod must be confused - I have bands like Metallica, Guns n Roses, Linkin Park and Journey but then I also have Hillsong, Phil Wickham, John Denver and Sigur Ros.  I have no idea what music I like best - it depends on my mood.  But just because I'm a Jesus follower doesn't mean I only listen to the Bill Gaither Trio.  You won't even find them on my I-Pod.

I like to put on comfortable clothes the minute I get home from work.  I enjoy dressing up but if I were honest, I'd rather sit criss-cross applesauce on a couch with a cup of coffee and get real with a friend.  No pretense.  Hate it.  I just want the truth - reality - no masks.  I hate masks.

I want you to feel welcome here at my blog, whether you are a strong believer in Christ or someone who is searching and not sure about Him.  I want you to know that I love you, no matter what you believe and I want you to feel like you can be yourself with me.  Because you can.  I want you to know that even though I have some deep thoughts about my beliefs, I'm pretty insecure.  I mean, I'll be honest - sometimes when I don't get a "like" on facebook I question myself.  Was it too much?  Not enough?  What if I got it wrong?  I'm human - go figure.

Sometimes I feel like I'm too heavy (not physically, though that is in question at this point in my life, too, but I digress...) with my thoughts - like Jack Handy from Saturday Night Live, only usually I have a point and it's not random.  I said usually.  And then other times I think I'm not heavy enough - I mean, if we really realized how important our belief in God is in the world, we'd all be a lot heavier in our thoughts.

I guess what I'm saying is don't put me in a box.  Don't try to define me and think that's who I am.  I will either let you down or surprise you.  I think we are all like that - multi-faceted.  We are all enigmas in our own little ways.  I like that.  I don't think it's good to be one-dimensional.  I like that about you, too.  I hope I never put you in a box - and if I do, I hope you claw your way out and prove me wrong.

Our lives are rich and beautiful - no matter who we are.  We are made in the image of God.  We were made to love, to seek and to find.  And even if we do it in a puffy pirate shirt while listening to Pink Floyd and ironing, I think we're pretty amazing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

We've Blown It - Now Let's Own It! (A Call to Prayer)

We all know the crisis in the Gulf with the oil spill is escalating with each new day.  I don't know about you, but my heart is seriously burdened for our country - especially those in the Gulf coast.  My heart breaks as I see the photos of dead sea life, fires spilling toxic smoke into our atmosphere and all the while, the oil is spilling out thousands of gallons of oil each day into the previously beautiful Gulf Coast - with seemingly no end in sight.

I think it's time we get serious about stopping this catastrophe from escalating any more.  As believers, we have power in prayer!  It's time we realize that it's our responsibility to join together in prayer for this disaster to stop and for the condition of our country.  There is much to be learned through the scriptures about how this could be done.

We all have heard the reports that our US administration has turned its back on supporting Israel, and according to the Bible that is a slippery slope to destruction.  Sure, that may sound crazy to some - but it's in the Bible and if you believe the Bible is true, you cannot ignore this.  In Genesis 12:3, the Lord said to Abraham, concerning what would be Israel, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt."  I am not saying this oil spill is the wrath of God - I cannot ever presume to know God's motives in allowing something like this.  I'm not trying to super-spiritualize anything here - I'm just letting you know what the Bible says.  We either take heed or we don't.

It's not a big newsflash that the United States has come very far from its Biblical roots.  God is not tolerated here anymore - not in the schools, not in the government, not in most public areas.  We have allowed this to happen right under our noses as we are so preoccupied with so many things that keep us busy and distracted.  In Revelation 2:4-5 Jesus said "But I have this complaint against you.  You don't love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.  If you don't repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches."  We must turn back - we must repent and ask for mercy from our God!

We are persecuted for our belief in God - and there are so many misconceptions of who God really is.  He is thought of as cruel, dividing, intolerant and judgmental.  Yes, He is just - but He is also full of mercy and grace.  He is loving, patient, kind, peaceful, gentle and He is our only hope.  Are we full of these things for others?  Or are we judging people and blaming the "sinners" for what is going on in our country?  God is looking at us set things right - through humility and repentance.

As believers in Christ, we have a responsibility here (keeping in mind that our responsibility is our response to God's ability!).  Let's not put others down for what they are doing or not doing - maybe they don't see what we see.  God was clear to Israel, when they turned their backs on Him and began to tolerate more and more evil..."If My people, who are called by My Name, would humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Believers are His people, too.  We have been grafted into God's family (Romans 11).  We are responsible for humbling ourselves, seeking His face and turning from our wicked ways.  Those who do not know Him are not the ones responsible for doing this - they don't even know what it means.  But we do.  We can make a difference for our country.  We've blown it - now let's own it!  Proverbs 28:13 says "...whoever confesses and renounces his sins will find mercy."

Remember Daniel?  He didn't blame the administration or the "sinners" for what was wrong with Israel.  He took responsibility.  He offered up a prayer to God that convicts my heart every time I read it.  He didn't say "they" or "them" even ONCE.  He said "we" and "us".  He took responsibility instead of pointing fingers.  He humbled himself.  You can read his prayer below.


My point is this:  Let's join together in prayer, as believers, and humble ourselves.  Let's stop pointing fingers.  It's not helping - it's harming us more than anything.  Let's turn from our wicked ways of judging others, being angry, being indifferent and being self-reliant.  Only God has the qualifications to judge others.  He is our Defender.  Let's seek His Face!  Let's ask God, as Daniel did, to help us.  He alone can do this.  Let's watch Him do it!


Will you join me?  Would you forward this message to your believing friends, your church, your family?  Let's start world-wide prayer to stop the madness!  Let's all start praying together on JULY 4, 2010 in unity.  We can pray as families, in our churches (this day happens to be a Sunday), in our quiet times, or however we feel led.  We should fast and pray if we feel led to do that, as well. 

God is faithful, my friends.  He loves us.  We cannot do this without His Spirit.  And He is standing at the door and knocking to come in - and even though our administration is not allowing Him into our country, we can let Him in.

He is with us - and He is able.  Let's pray Daniel's prayer together - and let's see God show up in a mighty way to save our land from certain destruction!  Obviously, Daniel was praying for Jerusalem - let's pray for the United States of America as well as Jerusalem and the world today.  This crisis does not just affect the Gulf Coast.  It is effecting the world.  God will honor our sincere prayers, friends.  He is faithful.


Daniel 9:4-19 (New International Version)


 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
       "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

 7 "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
       "Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

 15 "Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
 17 "Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Absurdity

Loved.  Unconditionally.  That's what you are.  Seriously, I know it's hard to wrap our brains around this but it's true.  God loves us - and sometimes when we love someone we do things that don't make a lot of sense out of the motivation we feel to love that person.  Motivated by our deep love, nothing else matters but restoring that relationship when something threatens it.

This morning, I read something that Max Lucado wrote and wanted to share it with you.  It hurt to read this - but it did something in my heart that I cannot explain.  I hope you will be blessed...

What God did makes sense.  It makes sense that Jesus would be our sacrifice because a sacrifice was needed to justify man's presence before God.  It makes sense that God would use the Old Law to tutor Israel on their need for grace.  It makes sense that Jesus would be our High Priest.  What God did makes sense.  It can be taught, charted and put in books on systematic theology.

However, why God did it is absolutely absurd.  When one leaves the method and examines the motive, the carefully stacked blocks of logic begin to tumble.  That type of love isn't logical; it can't be explained in a term paper.

Even after generations of people had spit on His face, He still loved them.  After a nation of chosen ones had stripped Him naked and ripped His incarnated flesh, He still died for them.  And even today, after billions have chosen to prostitute themselves before pimps of power, fame and wealth, He still waits for them.

It is inexplicable.  It doesn't have a drop of logic nor a thread of rationality...

Bloodstained royalty.  A God with tears.  A creator with a heart.  God became earth's mockery to save His children.

How absurd to think that such nobility would go to such poverty to share such a treasure with such thankless souls.

But He did.

In fact, the only thing more absurd than the gift is our stubborn unwillingness to receive it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Not Good Enough

I remember vividly how I used to think that if I kept as many of the Ten Commandments as I could, I'd be good enough to get to heaven.  I would compare my life to others lives and justify that I was better than them, so I was ok.  I thought God would let me off the hook because I was good "most of the time".

But how good is good enough?

Where does God draw the line?

Romans 3:20 tells us plainly "No one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands.  The law simply shows us how sinful we are."  God didn't give us the Ten Commandments  so we would obey them.  He knew we couldn't.  He gave them to us so that we would see how sinful we truly are and how desperately we need a Savior!

Galatians 3:19-22...
"What then, was the purpose of the law (the 10 Commandments)?  It was added because of transgression (sin) until the Seed (Jesus) to whom the promise referred had come...Is the law, therefore opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness could have certainly come by the law.  But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself."  I can honestly say that even if I get all the others right, I fail miserably in this area.  I mean, if I were honest, I would tell you that God is not always first in my life.  I want Him to be, but life gets in the way.  I get stressed.  I worry.  I fear.  I doubt.  And when I do this, I break this commandment.

We cannot be good enough in our own power to impress God.  He is Holy!  And that means that even if the only sin we ever commit in our entire lives is to have one raunchy thought, then we still have too much sin to be in relationship with a Holy God. Holy is perfect.  We are nowhere near that.   But God's deepest desire is to have a relationship with us, so He made a way for that to happen
Romans 3:23-26 clearly lays out God's plan to restore us into a right relationship with Him...

For everyone has sinned.  We all fall short of God's glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood...God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.

So this means there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that Jesus Christ is more than willing to be the sacrifice for the sin in my life that keeps me from a relationship with God!  He told us that the only work that God requires is to believe in the One He has sent (John 6:29).  That is Jesus!  God sent Jesus to do the things we couldn't do...so we could be restored through our faith in Him to do what we are completely incapable of.  There is Hope!

The bad news is that if I insist on trying to work my way into a right relationship with God by trying to obey the law, I will fail.  I must recognize my inability to get it right without Jesus Christ - and this takes humility.  Pride will keep many people from coming to Jesus because we hate admitting when we are wrong or helpless.  This is heart breaking to God.

Imagine offering your child something and they refuse it - even though it costs them their life - because they don't want to admit they were wrong.  (ouch) As a mom, that thought is unfathomable.  But God loves us and will pursue us.  And when we seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

When I finally realized that I didn't have to try so hard to be good, but that I had to trust Jesus Christ's righteousness in my life, I realized that little by little and day by day my life is changing as a result of my faith in His righteousness, not my works.  I finally learned to rest in Him.  I began to have faith that I am forgiven, I am a new creation - I am redeemed.  Some days I don't feel like it, of course.  But thank God faith is not a feeling.  It's faith - something we believe even when the feelings we have don't necessarily line up.

When I trusted Jesus, I stopped trusting in me - and trust me, that was the most freeing feeling I've ever experienced!  I know how undependable I can be.  But I also know that I can completely depend on Jesus Christ, who gave His life for me.  When God sees me, He sees Jesus - not the undependable, always failing woman I used to be.  And that, my friend, is the greatest gift I've ever received!

Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege, where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory.  (Romans 5:1-2)

FREE BOOK!  If you want to study more about this, please send me your name and address to lnease@leslienease.com.  I will send you a free copy of Andy Stanley's book "How Good is Good Enough."  It is my gift to you - no strings attached.  It can help you see the truth, from a biblical perspective.  (Or you could read Romans chapter 3 and the book of Galatians in your Bible or at www.biblegateway.com).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tommy

It seems like yesterday he was asking me to marry him.  He was only 5.  It was the day he graduated from kindergarten.  He looked up at me with his big, blue eyes and said "Mommy, God did a good job when he made you.  Will you marry me?"  So sweet!  I patted his head and said "You know, I'm already married to your daddy.  But you'll see...one day you'll want to marry someone else anyway!"  He didn't believe me.  It was precious.

Then there was the time when he was in second grade that I suspected he had a crush on his teacher (she was so adorable) but he still made me a card and asked me to be his valentine on Valentine's Day.  I thought that was sweet.  I found out later he made her one, too.   

Mine was better, though. (smile)

I remember when he broke his wrist when I was on a mission trip in Bolivia.  He was skateboarding.  He was so good at skateboarding, but I hated watching him because as a mom, my heart just couldn't take it when he would crash.  I never wanted to be in Bolivia when he broke a bone, though!  I felt so helpless.  It was as if my heart broke into a million pieces when I heard him say through the phone "Mom, I'm going to be fine.  I'm not a baby anymore."  He was right.  He was 13. 

Wow, nobody tells you how hard it is to let go of your kids as they grow up.  It's hard...but it's also very cool.  Tommy just recently moved out.  He's starting his new life in Chicago.  He's studying photography (that's one of his photos to the right) and I believe just wants to learn to live on his own in the big city.  He's always been independent and he's very artistic.  He is a pretty cool guy.  I know he is going to kick butt in Chicago and do great things!  I love that part of this - seeing him living his dreams and turning into a man before my very eyes.  I remember looking at him when he was a little boy and wondering what he would look like when he grew up, what he would be like and what he would become.  Now I'm witnessing it all first hand.  So rewarding!

When we took him to the airport a couple of weeks ago (he left for Colorado to visit a friend before he moves to Chicago) , I held it together pretty good until we got home and I saw his dog sitting there looking for Tommy to come walking in behind us.  At that moment, every ounce of vent-up sobbing came pouring out on that poor dog!  I hugged him close and cried as if I'd been holding it in for 18 years.  Maybe I had?  
 
I thought about the day we brought this dog home for Tommy. He was in middle school and told me he was having a hard time making friends.  He begged me for a dog - a buddy - to play with and hang out with.  We found a sad, black dog sitting in a cage all alone - he was free to a good home.  The moment they met, it was obvious they were going to be buddies for life.  That's probably how he got his name - Buddy.  They are so close that Tommy says he will be the best man in his wedding whenever he gets married.  Cute.  That should be an interesting wedding...

This week, he and my husband are spending together in the Rocky Mountains.  They're hiking, rock climbing, doing that manly bonding stuff that guys do.  I guess I'm a little envious of the time they are spending together - until I remember that when Stephanie graduated, we went on a girls only cruise with my sister, her daughter and my mom.  I'm sure Rod appreciated that. (haha)  So...I'm praying they will have the time of their lives this week together.  I know it means the world to Rod to be able to spend one more week with Tommy before his new life begins.

I don't know why I'm writing all of this tonight.  I suppose I'm just feeling nostalgic, excited for Tommy and a little sad for myself.  He used to make me tea at night and we'd talk.  I can't make hot tea like he can - he's really talented at it.  I miss that.  I miss his crazy art stuff laying around the house.  I miss the strange, yet interesting music he played all the time.  I miss seeing him and Buddy snuggling on the floor while Buddy licked his face until it would hurt (yuck!).  I miss a lot about him.  But I know God has a wonderful plan for his life - and this is just the beginning.

Tommy....I love you.  I'm proud of you!  And I am thrilled you are now able to touch the lives of so many others now...just like you've touched ours for 18 years.  I miss you...but it's so cool to see you growing up into such an amazing young man!  
xxoo Mom

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hope in the Crashing Waves

I remember when I was a little girl and we would go to the beach.  I was the one in the water the entire time!  I remember standing there with my little-girl-legs and the waves would push me down and as soon as I would get up they would push me back down.  I would get mad at the waves, as if that would help.  I remember specifically one time I just walked out of the ocean and decided I'd just had enough.  

Lately I've been recalling those feelings of frustration.  No, I'm not at the beach (I wish)! I've been having some waves knock me down, though.  Waves of frustration, waves of health issues, waves of weakness.  Not feeling very gutsy lately, if I were completely honest.  And yet I've been so blessed to have been in a position where God had my complete and undivided attention - something He honestly hadn't had for awhile.  I'd gotten kind of busy.  Can you relate?

My waves began when I came down with a bout of pericarditis in April.  Pericarditis is an inflammation of the lining of the heart, usually caused by a virus or sometimes it can be a problem with the immune system, chronic sinusitis or something like that.  Well, I recovered from that when the next wave hit.  I realized my chronic sinus infection that I've had for months (maybe even years, honestly - I think it was a 'gift' I brought home from China in 2007) was possibly causing my immune system issues.  So my doctor decided to try to fight it again.  I'd tried before in the past six months with no success, but this time we managed to find out exactly what antibiotic would kill it for good.

The only problem?  Well, it was an IV antibiotic and I would have to be home for two weeks, infusing from home for about 4 hours each day (2 hours, twice per day).  I did this for about 11 days when I began to break out into a rash all over my torso, neck, and scalp.  I went to the ER because it was Memorial Day and my doctor's office was closed.  They gave me steroids and a strong antihistamine and sent me home.  As the week went on, I got worse each day.  By Sunday, I was covered with huge blisters all over and the little rash I had was now a full-blown mess and it was spreading to my legs and arms.

My mother came to visit me on Sunday and gasped when she saw me.  She took some photos of me and emailed them to my physician who told me to get to the emergency room - it was not normal what I had and it needed to be treated.  I, of course, went to the ER and was initially told it was Stevens Johnson Syndrome.  A specialist was called in (who, by the way, just "happened" to be 5 minutes away from the hospital - the doctor said God must have been smiling down on me) and he said it was actually called "Erythema Multiforme Major" which is the step before having a full blown Stevens Johnson Syndrome reaction.  He said it was a good thing I went to the ER because usually these rashes can get worse before they get better and they can be life-threatening.  He said on a level of 1-10, my rash was a 2.  Some people don't have any regular looking skin left and I was only about 40% covered.  I was shocked!  I immediately said a prayer for anyone who has had this horrific diagnosis - it was so bad I couldn't imagine it getting worse.

I was in the hospital for a couple of days where they gave me IV steroids , pain medication and antihistamines (stronger ones than before) and today I was released.  I still have the rash but it is fading and I'm not feeling as though my skin were on fire anymore.  It's amazing the things we take for granted!

Now I'm sitting at home and I cannot sleep because I think the steroids are giving me a little bout of insomnia.  Small price to pay.  I hope to be getting better very soon.  I need to get stronger because, unfortunately, we still have to figure out how to get rid of the sinus problem, which as of last week's culture is still there.  I have a big God though...not to worry!

I know it could be so much worse.  I am grateful that the rash was stopped before it could get more serious.  I'm grateful for a mother who had enough sense to take photos and send them to my doctor.  I'm grateful the specialist just "happened" to be 5 minutes away on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and that, on his free time, he took the time to come see me.  I'm grateful that I'm sitting at home with insomnia instead of at the hospital with it (smile).  I'm grateful for friends and family who have been praying for me - what a blessing!

I'm also grateful the Lord used this time to get my attention and remind me that nothing else matters in the world more than taking time to spend with Him.  I've really enjoyed reading the Word, my prayer time and even some opportunities to pray with others at the hospital who were hurting much more than I.  What a beautiful thing it is to be a Child of God and to know that all pain has a purpose - all of it can be used for our good and His glory.  And it must be filtered through Him first.  Nothing can touch a Child of God without going through Him first.  Nothing.

I've learned that when hard times come, instead of saying "Why me?" I need to say "What can I learn from this, Lord?" Then I can see the whole thing from a beautiful perspective.  I'm so grateful that in spite of the pain, there is Hope.  There is always Hope.  

Romans 5:3-5 "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." 

"My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever." Psalm 73:26

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