Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thought-filled Thursdays...

At the end of each year, I ask the Lord what WORD He has for me for the coming year.  One might describe it as a "theme" or "focus".  For me, it's a word that helps guide me in the coming year as I live each day.

This year, as I pondered and prayed and sought the Lord for a word, I kept hearing, "Learn and Grow".  Okay, learn and grow is pretty straight forward.  Then, one day I heard, "Letting Go".  Was it one or the other?  Which one was it?  As I sought an answer, I understood it to be BOTH!  So, for 2012 it's LEARN and GROW + LETTING GO!

And, as I've learned over the years the word or words don't necessarily mean the first definition that comes to mind.  No, it is often that plus a whole lot more than I could imagine it would be...

Last Fall, I picked up the devotional, Experiencing God Day by Day.  The devotionals have been timely and a blessing to me.  On January 6th, the devotional for the day really hit me.

God Looks for Clay

"House of Israel, can I not treat you as the potter treats this clay?" - this is the LORD's declaration.  "Just like clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hands, house of Israel."  Jeremiah 18:6

God knows how to bring salvation to your family, your friends, your community, and your world.  Accordingly, He looks for those who will allow Him to shape them into the instruments He requires to do His divine work.  Clay has no plan of its own, no aspirations for service, nor reluctance to perform its given task.  It is just clay.  Moldable, pliable, totally submissive to its master.

At times we excitedly announce to God:  "I've discovered my strengths and gifts, and now I know how I can best serve You!"  At others times, we inform Him, "I am aware of what my weaknesses are, so I know which tasks I'm not capable of doing for You."  Yet this is not characteristic of clay.  God is not limited to working with our strengths (2 Cor 12:9-10).  He can mold us into whatever kind of instrument He requires.  When God's assignment demands humility, He finds a servant willing to be humbled.  When His work requires zeal, He looks for someone He can fill with His Spirit.  God uses holy vessels, so He finds those who will allow Him to remove their impurities.  It is not a noble task, being clay.  There is no glamour to it, nothing boast-worthy, except that it is exactly what God is looking for.  Compliant, moldable, yielded clay.

If your tendency is to tell the Father what you can and cannot do for Him, submit to His agenda and allow Him to shape you into the person He wants you to be.  Like clay.

As I read this passage, I felt like I'd been hit between the eyes with a 2x4.  How often have I let the Lord know what I was doing for Him and what I could and couldn't do for Him.  There are days when I really wonder why He is so PATIENT with me and my ways.  Here, my gracious Father was sharing with me (now, today, right at that moment) what He really wanted me to allow Him to do.  I asked His forgiveness for not being who He wanted me to be and that He would help me become the child of God He truly desires me to be.  Now, I know that life gets challenging when you ask God to help you "become" something different from who you are today.  It's not going to be easy.  In fact, it's likely to be quite difficult to be like clay for Him; allowing Him to mold me, make me; yielding myself, my plans, my desires to His. 

This is just the beginning of 2012 and if this is how it's starting ~ God's getting right to the point ~ it's going to be a very interesting year.  LEARN and GROW + LETTING GO!  I don't think I can even imagine what is in store for this year, but if God's in control it is going to be an amazing adventure!

And, one more thing before I move on to a new thought...  Have you ever noticed how dirty and mucky a potter's hands become when they work with clay?  If God is willing to "get His hands dirty" as He works in my life, shouldn't I be willing to do the same for Him? 

After this revelation, I didn't really pursue things any further.  (I don't think I really wanted to fully embrace allowing my life to be "CLAY".)  But yesterday, I decided to take some time away from home and domestic duties and open myself up to hear from God what it is He is trying to say to me regarding these words He gave me for 2012.  One of my special places to go and allow my mind to be open is Alki Beach.  It was a gorgeous (albeit biting cold) day, so off I went.  I arrived, went for a VERY short walk, took a few pictures and hurried back to the car to get warm again.  I opened a notebook I'd taken along and jotted down a few thoughts and then turned to my Bible.  "Jeremiah 29:11"  Really?  It seems so cliche, Lord?  "Jeremiah 29:11"  Okay.  So I flipped to the passage.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  

Yes, Lord, I know this passage well.  I'm still waiting for You to bless us and set us free from city living.  You know it's been my desire to live in the country on acreage for many, many years.  Blaine and I had just attended a community meeting on Sunday afternoon and learned that the entire Puget Sound region has been polluted from the Asarco copper smelt plant that operated for a hundred years in the Tacoma area.  We didn't know the extent of arsenic and lead pollution to the area.  It was like, "okay, Lord ~ how much longer do we need to put our time in here before you're going to get us out of here to a safer, healthier place?  We've done much for You over the years."  

And then, the Lord directed me to the lifestyle study highlight on the previous page in my Bible...

Jeremiah 29:1-14 ~ God rules

Blessing Babylon

The Jews were having an awful time in pagan Babylon.  They thought that God would surely relent of His punishment and hustle them back to Jerusalem.  But through the prophet Jeremiah, God sent a surprisingly different instruction.  He instructed them to settle down, plant gardens, and raise families, to plan on staying seventy long years.  God also told them to get out into the city and bless the Babylonians, for as they did, He would bless them with peace and prosperity.

The Lord was saying, in effect, "Look, guys, I know what I'm doing.  I know you despise the Babylonians, but I intend to bless all nations through you.  So pray for them, help the city to prosper and make it your home while you're here."

How often we waste time longing for yesterday or wishing for tomorrow instead of living for today, complaining instead of blessing.  Difficult circumstances may go on longer than we thing they should, but God has purposes beyond what we can see.  And His plans for us are good!

CRAP!  Are you serious?  I should really start "ducking", as this was another direct hit with a 2x4 right between the eyes.  Why me?  Why us?  I knew as I began reading the passage that God was showing me that His plan was for us to stay where He has "planted us" for this season and while we have been blessing people to some measure, I've been withholding because I don't like this or that OR I need to focus on our plan to move to the country one day OR these people aren't worth my time OR well...... I think you can probably fill in many more statements for me.  Ugh. 

Forgive me, Lord, for I have again fallen short of Your desires for my life and our life in this place.  I know I'm going to make alot of mistakes as I continue to travel on this journey and in this season of our life.  I don't understand why we're here Lord.  Why did you choose this place?  It's noisy, and people are rude, and we don't have the money to do work on our house that's needed, and ...  Well, there's really no use in going on.  I have wasted a great amount of time.  I have complained ALOT!  We do have difficult circumstances to deal with from time-to-time.  BUT God's purposes are truly beyond what I can see.  He is at work.  We have some really incredible and friendly neighbors.  We are close to everything.  We have a large lot in which to create an "urban farm" and begin living "our dream" now.  He has enabled me to provide a monthly service to others through becoming an Azure drop (and bringing more wonderful people into my life).  My cousin lives near by and we love getting to spend time together.  He has truly blessed us to the measure we have allowed Him to work in and through our lives.  And today, I realized I have much LEARNING and GROWING to do and there is going to be much to LET GO of this year to enable God to use me more in this place.

It's time to truly...

Blessings upon your week...  Each Thursday I will be taking time to thoughtfully process what God is teaching me.  I pray each of us desires to Learn and Grow to become more like Him.  May His love flow through each of our lives to reach a world desperately in need of love.

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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Abundant blessings on your day... Joanie