Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You've Got God

I like You've Got Mail.Wait, did I say like? Let me correct myself.
I love You've Got Mail.
I've always loved that movie since the first time I laid eyes on the opening credits. You remember them, don't you? The computer mouse clicks into different boxes as the music strolls the viewer down a Manhattan street right up to the front door of Kathleen Kelly's brownstone apartment. The leaves, the sounds, the jazzy music, New York City - What is there not to love about You've Got Mail?
The answer: nothing. It is the perfect movie. (This is not up for debate).
And if you thought New York in the fall with Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks and a love story involving book stores wasn't good enough then you have forgotten about George, Kathleen Kelly's aloof employee at the Shop Around the Corner. His hair is long, his expression is one of a pathetic downtrodden bachelor whose only hope in life and love is meeting a poet loving, yogi at an interpretive reading while they both sip on their chai tea at the locally owned coffee shop. He is a bit depressing but completely endearing. I challenge a woman on earth to walk away from watching You've Got Mail saying anything other than, "Aw, poor George." We all love George. Do you want to know why? Because we all have a little George in us.
George symbolizes the rejected. He's the guy at prom standing against the wall, cute in a little boy kind of way but too dorky to get a date. George is the nice guy that we all fear might finish last. Most notably, George speaks to that part of each of us that is lonely and given up the search for real true romance and lasting love. Failure and repeated rejection has left us, the Georges of the world, exhausted from the let downs and dashed hopes.
I love George because I get George. In so many ways I am George. I've experienced rejection from all sides, all directions and all modes of communication. If you can name a way to get rejected then chances are I've experienced.
And George probably has, too.
I know I'm not alone in my plight. This problem is so prevalent that movies have whole characters devoted to voicing the pains of the rejected. Nora Ephron knew that movie goers would understand the loneliness of a romantically rejected children's book store worker, so she created George - a man whose primary role in a two hour film is to be a sad sack. And why he is a sad sack? Because he has been rejected. Over and over and over again. He doesn't even use the internet anymore because as he says it's, "just another way of being rejected by women." Poor George.

Sometimes I'm tempted to be a sad sack just like George because I'm alone and because I've experienced rejection from all angles and every avenue - including the internet. George was spot on when he deemed the World Wide Web as just another source of romantic rejection. When I relive my own rebuffs from the internet world, telephone world and face-to-face world I slowly slip into a depressive funk.
Rejection isn't fun. It isn't enjoyable. Rejection leaves the rejected wondering what in the world is wrong with them. I know because those very words have haunted my thought life on the heels of rejection.
If I replay those past experiences I get down. And I stay down.
Until I get back to the Bible. It is in the Bible that I find the truth about rejection. And what is the truth about rejection? Is a to be expected. Woah! Try telling George that.
John 15:18 says, "If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you."
Before you and I were, Jesus was. And when He walked this earth He was hated and rejected. As the Bible says, His own didn't even receive Him (John 1:11). Talk about rejection!
So it would follow that if you and I are in Christ we will not be received, either. We will actually be hated. Enter massive rejected. We will come to the people we think should be our own and they won't accept us into the fold. We will be outcasts. We will be rebuffed. We will be the lonesome soul standing against the wall at prom, so to speak.
And all of this is to be expected because Jesus endured it first. He went through this same rejection (and worse) and knows the feelings of loneliness we face as a result. The road of rejection that you, George and I walk is one that Jesus has already walked. He came and faced our rejection and, as the Bible teaches, overcame it.
In the end rejection couldn't keep Jesus in a grave and it couldn't separate Him from the love of God. Rejection wasn't fun for Him. Being nailed to a cross is anything but pleasant. But even that most torturous of rejection wasn't capable of separating Jesus from God. And that is what matters most: being one with God.

You may be feeling like George and I today, totally rejected and completely depressed. George and I understand your emotions and we sympathize. Most importantly, Jesus sympathizes, He relates and He understands. Bring to Him your hurt and your lonely burden and let Him fill you with His love. When you and I come before our God broken and rejected He is faithful to fill us with His compassion and companionship. He will accept us and love us just the way we are. The world is going to hate us, you can count on that but God loves us more than we will ever know and more than we can comprehend. So come to Him and let His free gift of acceptance lift you from the downtrodden state of a sad sack and into a state of overwhelming joy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Every morning

I wake up every morning in a bed by myself. Well, not exactly by myself. Pippy is there. Every night she curls up at the foot of my bed and immediately falls asleep. I never thought I'd be sharing a bed with a dog. I was always one of those "dogs stay on the floor" kind of people. That is until I met Pippy. She entered my life and all of my rules about dogs flew out the window. Dogs riding in the car to run errands? Yes. Pippy does that almost daily. Dogs on vacation? Of course! Don't dogs deserve a break, too?And dogs wearing raincoats? Duh, if its raining!
As you can tell, Pippy changed my perspective on a dog's place on the family tree. And she changed my sleeping arrangements. I went from sleeping solo to feeling out-of-place if my bed isn't filled with my furry friend.
As usual, this morning when I woke up Pippy was there, right where she always is, but still I felt all alone. My mind started wandering to marriage and life-long companionship - male companionship. Don't get me wrong, I love Pippy and our sleeping arrangement but sometimes, many times as of late, I have been wanting to add to the arrangement. I've been longing for a husband.
It was still pitch black outside my window as my longing once again set in. God promises to give His obedient children the desires of their heart. Well, this is the desire of my heart but it feels like a million miles away from my reality. There is no prospect of a companion in sight. I survey my life and I don't even see a glimmer or a spark of any possibility for a mate in the future. As I laid there this morning thinking on my singleness and my husband-free bed I began to mourn the marriage I've never had and lament what I deem a grim future in the matrimony department.
And then God shook me. Well, not literally but internally. It dawned on me that I was already in the presence of all the companionship I'll ever need. And I'm not just talking about Pippy.
Every morning I wake up in the arms of Jesus. I may not be able to see them but that doesn't mean they aren't there. I may not be able to feel them but that doesn't mean they aren't holding on to me. Jesus has promised to never leave me. He made a vow, a commitment with the shedding of His blood. And He hasn't abandoned that promise. He is my constant companion all day, every day...even in the wee hours of the morning.
As I laid in my bed longing to be held my a man I could call my husband I was reminded that I was already in the arms of my most faithful lover of my soul. In the midst of my lament a scripture came to mind, a message of comfort in my time of need. I couldn't place it to a reference but I knew the words by heart, "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." 
It wasn't until I got out of bed and found that scripture in the Bible that the irony of it hit me. Lamentations 3:22-23
In the midst of my lament Jesus reminded me that He is enough to quiet my discontented heart. His arms are big enough, strong enough, faithful enough and loving enough to hold me every morning for the rest of my days. The union I share with Him is the only union I'll ever truly need and it is more than enough to satisfy my soul.
My lament of the morning has given way to praise for the privilege of waking up next to Jesus. Who am I that He should love me so much that He would keep me company every night and wake up ready to comfort me every morning? And who am I that He should have given me such a faithful little furry friend to keep my feet warm and toasty even on the chilliest of mornings? 
I am blessed. I am overwhelmingly blessed by the steadfast devotion of my Savior, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings, the One I wake up with every morning.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A consuming fire

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted. Volcanos had erupted prior to that fateful day and they have certainly erupted since but there is no more infamous and devestating volcano in recorded history than the eruption of Vesuvius. That volcano leveled cities and buried them in ash. It demolished towns and obliterated whole populations of people. Molten rock, stones and ashfall laid waste to the land it attacked and stole the lives of the unsuspecting inhabitants below.
The story of Vesuvius is well known and often taught in grade school. If you recall the lesson from your days spent starting at a chalk board then you probably remember that Pompeii was the most notable of cities destroyed by Vesuvius. For most people that it as much as they will ever know about Pompeii. It was in Italy and it was destroyed by a volcano. But there is more to the story of Pompeii.
The town of Pompeii was established at the foot of a volcano, not the greatest of locals but apparently that didn't raise alarm bells for the inhabitants because they built up a thriving port city. In 89 BC they were annexed from Roman rule and that is when things really started boombing. They revamped their infrastructure, built temples, grew their economy and added to their population. Suffice it to say, Pompeii was popping.
But then strange things started happening: earthquakes. It started in 62 AD with minor quakes and then in 79 AD the world as Pompeii knew it erupted. Vesuvius woke up and consumed the whole town below in a show of volcanic force that has yet to be duplicated.
What makes the eruption of Vesuvius even more chilling then utter death and destruction is what was taking place right before it erupted. Just the day before it came to its fateful end, the town of Pompeii had been celebrating "Vulcanalia," the festival devoted to the god of fire.
It is presumptious to say that because the citizens of Pompeii worshiped a "god of fire," the true God reigned down on them with all the fiery fury in His power. I won't pretend to know the mind of God. But there is a lesson in the life and tragic death of Pompeii. It is the lesson of being consumed.
No matter who you are or what time period you live in there will always be a temptation to become consumed with false gods. The false god doesn't always fall into the category of a bronze statue or angry volcano. Sometimes the false gods are money, relationships, material possessions or even something as seemingly good as compaionship. When put on a pedistal and fixated upon those things become all consuming and, in turn, all destroying.
There is only one thing that is to consume us and that is God himself. As Hebrews 12:29 says, "our God is a consuming fire." In Deuteronomy it says that our God is a jealous God, wanting to consume us. He doesn't want idols, fixations, money or any earthly desire to consume us. Those are all false gods that will only destroy us in the end. But when you and I are consumed by God we are not headed for a firey end. We are consumed by the God of love who will take us up to Heaven when our time on earth is done. We have the privilage of being consumed by the God of the universe who knows every detail of our past and has every second of our future plotted on the palm of His hand. There is no other god like our God. The god of fire that the citizens of Pompeii worshiped led to death. Being consumed by the one and only God leads to life.
In Pompeii, back in the late BCs and early ADs, the citizens of that town fell into the habit of being consumed. First they were consumed with building a city they could take pride in. And by human standards they succeeded but that life of material and idol fixation didn't lead to an eternal life. They worshiped fire and statues and false idols but their worship gave way to their destrction. The town they labored over and the gods they worshiped pointed straight to their utter ruination when Vesuvius consumed them in a firey furnace.

You and I face the same temptation that the citizens of Pompeii faced. We can become consumed with the wrong things. We can worship false idols and labor for fleeting glory and worldly success. But it will all end in ruin.
Being consumed by Christ and the love of God is the only path to eternal life and everlasting glory. Our jealous God wants all of our attentions, all of our worship and every ounce of our dedication. When we give that to Him here on earth He will give us a beautiful ending that leads straight to the golden gates of Heaven. There we will come face to face with our God, the all consuming fire, who will be waiting with open arms to greet us into His House of endless praise and worship.
Dear Reader (and dear self), don't allow yourself to become consumed with the false gods that abound on this earth. Fix your eyes on the God of the universe, the King of Kings. He alone is worthy of praise. He commands us to submit ourselves to Him and be consumed by His mighty power. So let Him have His way. Fall into the arms of your all-consuming fire and let Him have His way in your life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

An October Life

Don't you just love October? Maybe it is silly to qualify months and rate them in order of goodness. If it is then forgive me for my upcoming silliness but October truly is the greatest month. The colors alone are worthy of the top spot. The landscape (at least up north which is also the greatest place to live - and yes, I'm a bit biased on that point) takes on the characteristics of a painters canvas brushed with golden hues of red, orange, brown and yellow. When the wind whips between the leaves the magnificent color display sways as if to the rhythm of an imaginary orchestral accompaniment. This is the beauty of nature that can only be found in the blessed month of October.
L. M. Montgomery said it best when she breathed a classic line into a young girl named Anne. "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." My only regret about that famous line is that I didn't think of it first. It is the perfect summation of the month of October and of life itself. Because the beauty of October doesn't end at the leaves and the weather and the sweet scent of spiced candles and apple cider. October captures the essence of beauty because it is the perfect picture of life.
October boasts beautiful colors and crisp air but it also boasts some not-so desirable characteristics. October can bring with it grey skies, pounding rains and unpredictable temperatures. One day you can be surrounded by the perfect humidity, perfectly blue sky and gorgeous golden trees and the next day a storm can roll in that send the air into a fit of fierce wind and torrential rains. October brings with it a lingering uncertainty. Will winter come early? Will the leaves be torn to the ground before kids get to trick-or-treat? In Northern Pennsylvania the question of snow even enters the conversation of weather predictors.
This isn't just the story of October, it is the story of the life hidden with Christ. It is an unpredictable ride. There are ups and downs and countless unknowns. One day can be all sun and the next can be overcast and totally covered with dark clouds. When you and I entrust our lives into the hand of God we aren't signing up for a month like August where high humidity, blazing hot sun and green grass are to be expected. We're singing on for October and October is anything but predictable.
Despite all of these unknowns I can say with confidence that I am so glad I live a life hidden with Christ, a life like the month of October. Even when the circumstances of my life turn grey and the storm clouds roll in I can hang on to the beauty that even the roughest of weather is part of God's plan for my life. The trials and storms are part of a bigger picture, they are necessary for the changing of life's seasons and turning of the leaves. I can look out my window on this month of October and be reminded that without the cold snaps the green leaves never turn bright gold. Without the rain the pumpkins don't grow. And without the wind I would never get to see the beautiful display of swaying colors on the hillside.
The storms, the sun and every change of weather in between are part of God's plan for this beautiful world I get to enjoy. And the storms and sun of life are part of God's master plan for my good, too. They are there to bring about necessary change in my soul and sometimes to change the trajectory of my life's course. God uses the challenges of life to strengthen my faith and assurance in His omnipotence and sovereignty. He uses the storms to break my will and my pride. He uses the storms to draw my focus back to His face.
I'm so glad that God has turned my life into one big October, my favorite of all months. No matter how difficult this journey may feel - and some days it feels overwhelmingly trying - I can look to the promises of God and the lesson in the month of October: there will be ups and downs but God is doing something beautiful. All I have to do is look at the trees and the changing leaves to be reminded that God is doing a work in me and if I let Him have His mighty way He can make me as beautiful as the month of October.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dying with Dignity

Yesterday I came across an article titled, "Dying with Dignity." You might have read it, too.
A 29 year old with an incurable form of cancer has decided to choose the date of her death in the state of Oregon thanks to their Death with Dignity Act. This act gives terminally ill patients the choice of dying by lethal injection. It is a practice that is only legal in three states but it is gaining wide spread support since the story of this young woman hit the headlines.
I read many articles about this woman and countless comments about the decision she has made to choose her own death date. The cancer she has is vicious and, doctors tell her, will cause her a slow and painful death. It is a devastating prognosis and one that no one can imagine receiving unless they have themselves had such a diagnosis.
I am not here to judge her choice in dying by lethal injection. I am not in her body and did not receive the prognosis she received so I can't say unequivocally how I would handle such a situation.
But reading about this woman and about dying with dignity I couldn't help but think about Christ and His death. It certainly wasn't a death that most would call dignified. He died slowly, painfully and brutally. And He knew it was coming. His whole life was spent on the road to that brutal end. He knew every day that He was going to have to die a sacrificial death to set sinners free. It wasn't dignified. It wasn't quick. It was incomprehensibly horrific.
Yet, Jesus didn't try to get out of it early or minimize His pain. Through His death on a cross He knew that He would be fulfilling the will of God. He prayed and asked God to change the course of His life, take the cup from Him. But God didn't do that. He had a plan of salvation that only Jesus could work out. And so Jesus didn't ask His disciples to end His life early and quickly so that He wouldn't have to be crucified on a cross in front of a mocking crowd. He carried His cross, endured the nails and the slow death and asked for God's forgiveness to rest on the murderers below.
When you and I die we won't be bringing salvation to sinners. Jesus alone did that work and it was a one time gift for all of humanity. But just because we aren't saving souls doesn't mean we aren't fulfilling God's will in our death. God's name can be glorified by how we die just like it can be glorified in how we live.
There is an appointed time for each of us to be born and an appointed time for each of us to die. It is not ours to determine, it is in God's hands and it is His alone to know. How He wants to use us up until that very last moment is part of His plan. Even with our last breath we can be a voice for Him. Our peace in the face of pain can be a picture of His presence. Our relentless hope in the mist of difficulty can speak volumes to the lost.
I don't know what you're facing today. Maybe it is a death sentence of a diagnosis. Whatever your trial may be, keep living fully in Christ. He can make His name great through your life and through your death if you will allow Him to have total control. Submit your days of vitality to Him and your days of weakness. Release your will and your dignity into His care and He will use you to glorify His great name.
God has a plan for you and for me from the day we are born to the day we die. And He has those days marked out for us. They are a mystery to us but an appointment to keep in God's date book. Let Him have His way in your life and in your death and He will use you up until your final breath.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's not about me

It has been a while since I've posted on Pippy Love. Most of my time spent writing and posting has been on Baking on the Fritz where I have been regularly chronicling my life in the kitchen and my life post multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Most of those posts have a recipe and a lesson learned while baking a particular treat. God has been using the kitchen as a classroom to further mold me into a woman after His own heart. (Trust me, I have quite a ways to go).
So much of what God has been revealing to me and teaching me has been coming from my experiences (failures and successes) in the kitchen. It is as if when I put on my apron God is saying, "Oh, okay, so you're here to learn now, aren't you?" I never knew there were so many life lessons in flour and sugar. I never knew that failed baked goods could provide such spiritual growth. But God knew and He planted in me this desire to bake and in turn has used it as a way to continue the work He has been doing on my heart.
But not every lesson that I've been learning has come while wearing an apron. Some lessons come without a list of ingredients and a preheated oven. Take, for instance, this morning.
This morning, for whatever reason, I was struck by an intense and overwhelming sense of loneliness. It was as if someone hit me with a bat. All of a sudden I was down and out, depressed and utterly lonely.
Immediately I began to cry out to God with the question, "Why?"..."Why are you allowing me to be alone for so long? Don't you know how lonely I am?"
My lament to God took place at the kitchen sink as I stood at the window and looked out into the front yard. I didn't even want to see the world clearly so I took off my glasses. Seeing the world in blurry bunches of color gave me the sense that I was able to somehow escape its reality. It was my way of crawling into an isolated cocoon.
It was there, standing paralyzed in my kitchen in a state of pathetic self-pity that God came knocking at the door of my heart and mind. He didn't speak with audible words but His truth came kindly and rationally to me, like a Father lovingly disciplining a child. God started to discipline my heart's attitude.
The thoughts and words flooded over me and it was as if He said, "Don't you know this isn't all about you?"
At that moment I was overwhelmed and humiliated by own selfishness. There I was, consumed by my own pitiful depressive state and God had to remind me that loneliness is nothing compared to eternal separation from Him. I needed to be reminded, even after all these years under His teaching that my life isn't all about me.
God reprimanded my heart and redirected my attitude. I put my glasses back on and realigned my spirit's posture. In those moments I heard a little word from God, almost like a pep-talk and it went something like this, "This life isn't all about you. We have bigger fish to fry. There are people out there perishing who don't know me. They aren't saved. They are going to spend eternity in separation from me. You are alone and true that isn't enjoyable for you but the souls of people are on the line. That is bigger than your loneliness. That is a more pressing need. If you are consumed with your loneliness than you can't focus on the really big problem. That is the problem of lost souls. If you want to help me in the mission to save them then you can't be so concerned about your lonely heart. That can't even be on the radar screen. I need your focus to be on helping spread my word of salvation. I'll be blunt, that's more important then you wanting a companion."
Dear Reader, I won't claim to you that I've now closed the book on my loneliness and that I will never spend another moment of my life lamenting my singleness or my lack of companionship. I'm too flawed too claim such victory. But I can tell you this, I will continue to heed the discipline of my Father God. When I fall into a state of overwhelming loneliness I will cry out to Him and let Him kindly guide me back to His ultimate purpose in my life. It isn't for me to have a love interest or to be surrounded by friends. His ultimate purpose for me is to use me in furthering His kingdom. That is my life's work. That's why I was created. I was created to spread the salvation that is only found in Jesus Christ's death on a cross. He came to set the sinner free by the blood He shed on Calvary. My loneliness is such small potatoes compared to that eternal truth. My loneliness doesn't even make a ripple in the ocean of importance when compared to the souls of sinners. Their salvation is of utmost importance and God wants to use me in His mission to save them.
I have the great privilege and honor of being a soldier in the Lord's army. But to be an effective fighter I must be focused on the battle. I must cast my loneliness aside so I can be fully engaged in the fight to spread the word and truth of salvation. That's what this life is all about. And it isn't about me.