I’ll Play My Drum For Him… (Part Two)

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Have you ever had to give a loved one LESS than you would have liked to have given?

At Christmas, while others are giving name brand name clothes, high-end electronics, expensive toys, etc., you are giving out dish towels and hand made jars of hot coca mix or cake mixes? Although you had to make your choice of gifts because of your lack of means, it likely left you a bit embarrassed and ashamed. It wasn’t any FAULT of your own, but you FELT feelings of shame. Granted, I have met ‘cheapskates’, that regardless of means, we just know they chose to spend as little as humanly possible on others as it is just their nature. I know that sounds judgmental but I think we all know those people who are just plain ‘stingy’. I guess that is why we hate to give small, insignificant gifts… because of how we will be perceived by those around us, particularly by the recipient of our gifts.

As a side note but actually quite relevant to this discussion, ‘shame’ is a powerful emotion. One doesn’t even have to be guilty of anything to FEEL ashamed. Do you know how many poor souls there are in this world who have been ‘shamed’ or told (or experienced) they were insignificant? Guilty vs innocent is a matter of ‘doing wrong or doing right.’ However, what happens when a person has had their character or their actions defined (labeled) as “wrong” or “ugly” or with impure motives – labeled ‘guilty’ – but those accusers have been false and unkind and have had their own skewed motives of advancing themselves at the cost of another’s own view of themselves?

In fact, I’ll go one step further… one who innately has a low opinion of themselves will almost always, if they are being honest, redefine themselves negatively regardless of how the people in their lives try to convince them of their worth. Their own opinion of themselves isn’t based on reality but on their own ‘worse case scenario’ image of their life in their own skewed mind. (Sorry, I got off on a tangent that I am rather passionate about. I told you, I am a VERY passionate person… And I’m not necessarily talking about an ‘affectionate’ person. I’m talking about the other word: ‘passionate.’)

Back to considering my Savior, Jesus! Back to my introspection. “What is MY gift to Jesus?” What about all my gifts of service to Jesus and for Jesus’ sake (both duty and genuine adoration)? Naively as a teenager, when I committed my life to serving Jesus and committed, with my husband-to-be, to go into FULL-TIME ministry, with reckless abandon and no holds barred, I certainly expected my life to have looked differently by now (talk about rose-colored glasses)! I won’t detail what I pictured our lives to look like today, but I’m sure you can imagine some scenarios. Although I obviously didn’t dream that our lives or our gifts of service would appear as lofty as the wise-men with their gifts of “gold, frankincense and myrrh,” I certainly thought that it would feel a bit more significant than the poor drummer boy who had nothing to offer the king but his frail little self and a simple song on the simple little instrument he carried on his person.

But what if God has NEVER been impressed with MY gifts of service? What if MY road of struggling to MAKE Him and KEEP Him happy with MY life (what could possibly be wrong with trying to please HIM, right?)….
was inadvertently more about validating MY life, MY character, MY gifts, MY duty, MY single-hearted, one-way love and adoration of HIM?
***Did you notice how many times I highlighted MY???***

I think that we believers in Jesus Christ have kind of a God-complex about ourselves: we often struggle to EARN and PROVE our worthiness to God, to become more holy (aren’t we commanded to be ‘more holy’?) as if we are attempting to elevate ourselves to this higher dimension of God’s favor, to look around us and compare ourselves to others (“well, I’m definitely more holy than these people beneath me”), and we seriously think that when we get to heaven, God is going to rate us and pat us on the head and say, “wow, I’m so proud of the holiness you achieved.”

To be honest, I have become so consumed with the sovereignty of God in my life. I won’t give away topics of future posts, but my life has had its exhausting share of hardships, health issues, failed dreams, ministries that have failed to take hold and ministries that God, in HIS sovereignty has allowed to be ripped out from under us. It has been an exhausting life trying to balance the weight of all the needs of the people we have been called to be responsible for (marriage, children, family, the people in our church as well as others God put in our path to whom to minister, and the list goes on) and all the things and duties to which God called us (my husband’s full time secular job, the tent-making pastoral ministries that were always “full time” even when many might have considered them “part time,” our home’s maintenance, the projects that had to be done NOW, the responsibilities of being a member of an extended family and contributing to their needs as well, and that list is just the tip of the iceberg). I’m sure every person in the world has their own overwhelming pressures and burdens, maybe more, that weigh heavily on their lives).

Let me get to the point before I lose you all. You see? This is what I firmly believe: God, in His sovereignty gives and takes away. If you have wonderful health, He has given it. If you have poor health, He has given it. If your burden is heavy with responsibilities (IF He has indeed called you to these – but that is a topic for another day), then He has given it. If you have lost your job or are no longer in a past ministry, He has taken it. I DO believe God does discipline for OUR own good SOME-times (but those who believe that this is ALWAYS the reason should listen to that song, “you’re so vain, I bet you think this ‘song’ is about you”)!

However, most of the time, I REALLY believe
He is the divine superintendent of His own glory.

He does things (sometimes things that don’t make sense to us because of our depravity), that have its ultimate culmination in HIS glory. In fact, we may live and die and never know WHY God did or allowed things in our lifetime. But God, being outside of time, has a plan. And God will ultimately use ALL the events that he orchestrates and allows to bring HIM glory!

(And He should, by the way! He has that right! HE IS GOD!)

So, consider your ‘blessings’. Consider your sufferings. Consider your responsibilities. Consider your limitations. Is God not the author and finisher of our faith? Isn’t He the ONE Who gives all our ‘gifts’ to us in the first place? It’s like when we used to give our kids $20 to go into the dollar store so they could buy us Christmas gifts. They bought our gifts with the money we gave them.

The question then is this:
Are you ok with THAT? Are you ok with
how God has sovereignly orchestrated your life?

Are you ok with both the ‘nice’ gifts He has given you and the miseries He has allowed to come upon you (both burdens AND sufferings)? The apostle Paul said it this way:

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am (He is) strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…… For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound TO THE GLORY OF GOD.” (2 Cor. 4:7-10,15)

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (Phil. 4:11)

imagesNow, let’s journey back to the manger…..
(Close your eyes…. are you there?)
Do you see yourself in the image of the lofty wise men with their very impressive, costly gifts? Do you see yourself in the lowly curious shepherds, or in Joseph, or Mary? Or, if you are honest with yourself, do you see yourself more as that fictitious ‘little drummer boy’? You have no impressive gifts to bring your King? All you have is your person, your heart and whatever ‘song’ HE HAS GIVEN YOU RIGHT NOW with which you can RETURN TO HIM as praise?

Now…. I’ll ask you again. Are you satisfied and content with your gift to Jesus, those gifts however large or small He has entrusted to you that you are RIGHT NOW able to bring to your King? I declare, I am!!! And…. even when I forget these important principles and feel like slinking away in shame and defeat at my seeming unworthiness, I CHOOSE to return to this theoretical manger again and humbly remember the divine orchestrator of my life and I affirm again:

“I am content with my humble gift to Him!
Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum!”

I’ll Play My Drum For Him … (Part One)

719rCnKK9KL._SY355_During this holiday season, reminders of Christmas are all around: lit trees, decorations all around, my little village is up, festive music can often be heard throughout the house and nativity scenes (both large and small) have been placed in prominent places as a constant reminder of the Reason for the season amid all the other ‘noise.’

So, as I am trying to integrate Christmas music and meditation into my day, I have transitioned to adding Christmas music to my morning walk playlists. Personally,  I have found that when I’m walking, whether the fresh air or the exercise or just the lack of other ‘noise,’ my ever more foggy brain clears up and if only for 45 min, I can think deeply, meditate and let the insights just flow. My playlists are diverse from Evie (1970’s pop) to Josh Groban to Bing Crosby to contemporary Christian. But the songs like “Where’s the line to see Jesus?” (Becky Kelley) and “Happy Birthday, Jesus” (Heather Henry) and “Mary’s Prayer” (Bebo Norman) and “Mary, Did You Know?” (Buddy Greene) leave me terribly emotional, weeping emotional.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a sentimental crier; the old cotton commercial could make me cry for Pete’s sake. Sappy movies? Don’t even get me started. So, when a worship song touches me deeply, the neighbors driving by might find me absolutely sobbing.

People who know me have described me as a deeply ‘passionate’ person (I’ve never known whether to take that as a compliment or a criticism…. It certainly has been both a blessing and a curse for me), a driven ‘can do’ person (not in recent years, for sure), an empathetic sensitive person, but I hope everyone that has known me well would say that I have always been passionate about holy living and living a life of integrity, no matter what the personal cost, even when the controversy around us has at times been intense.

Yesterday, as I was walking, my mind drifted back to that Bethlehem scene again. I wondered what gift(s) I might have been found giving the baby King Jesus if I had been aware of Who He was, the God of all creation, come down to earth on a mission to live among humanity, then die for the sins of mankind, MY sins. I considered all the ‘gifts’ I have aspired to give HIM during my Christian life; frankly, I wasn’t impressed.

As I look back at my life, from the time I was in high school till now, I have spent so much energy in my life trying to please God, represent Him well, serve Him with my gifts, and challenge others to live their lives single-mindedly for the Master. Now, as admirable as that may sound, these attempts have been met with very mixed results and responses, some positive and some negative. I don’t want to sound all negative and down on myself with a distasteful false humility. That’s not what this is about. I have just been more willing to be transparent and introspective in the last 5-6 years.

So, today I want to focus my attention on my OWN assessment of my ‘gifts’ to God, my trying to please Him, my attempts to live holy and godly in this present world in a manner worthy of the gospel of my Savior. I am faced with verses like, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14).

Wow! I come away with my head down with a sense of regret at the disappointment I feel I might be to my Lord; that’s how it feels more and more these days. So many perceived failures, so many misunderstandings, so often have I fallen short of the holiness I strove for, so little to show for all my years on this earth. My life has certainly NOT turned out how I had dreamed it would as a young adult passionate about ministry and service and a living life fully committed to Christ.

Now I want to stop right here and clarify something as I bet many friends and acquaintances will assume that my self-analysis is pretty hyper-critical, exaggerated for attention, a type of self loathing, etc. Facebook is the perfect place for people to throw out a “whoa is me” and wait to get ‘patted on the back’ which is their true intent: to have people who know them (or barely know them) reassure them of their goodness and value. These status updates are really about looking for attention. PLEASE don’t comment about any perceived goodness or value on my behalf!!! While I might appreciate your intent, it will completely miss the point I am trying to make. Scripture is the ONLY lens with which to view oneself and in that I fall miserably short! I hope this clarifies my point.

 “There is none righteous!
There is none that seeks after God.”
Scripture likens our righteousness
to “filthy rags.”
“The heart is deceitful and
desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah).
Ecclesiastes reminds us that “all is vanity.”
The apostle Paul, who had the right
to claim his service was really worth
something great instead said that it was
nothing compared to the glory of God.
(Read Phil. 3 )

Yet, as I look back over my life, I have tried SO HARD to bring gifts of “gold, frankincense and myrrh” with my life (my very BEST! No, let’s be more precise, I’ve wanted to be PERFECT, yep, that’s the word)! In fact, how immature and arrogant for anyone to think that perfection and holiness are attainable in these bodies! So, if I am honest, I haven’t brought much but wood, hay and stubble. How can one who has spent her life so driven, a perfectionist by nature, so sure of how to live this Christian life ‘correctly’ (the worst arrogance imaginable), so impassioned to serve Him with the core of her being, and so ministry-minded get to the latter days in her life and determine that she’s doesn’t have much to show for it????

Truth is, I feel more like the fictional ‘little drummer boy’ than one of the great wise men of the Bible. I guess the questions for today are these: Am I ok with that? Should I be ok with that? More importantly, what does my Savior think of that, the One I have committed my life to loving and serving? Can I (and should I) be content if all I ever bring to my King is a ‘simple song’ after spending my whole life TRYING and STRIVING to make my life a sweet smelling sacrifice of frankincense to give my King?

(Part 2 to come…..)