Consider Him

I consider weekends my heaviest work days. With all the kids home, there’s extra cooking, extra driving…

Extra.

Sunday afternoon, in the middle of cleaning for our church small group that we host on Sunday nights, with dinner prep still to do while one kid needed homework help and another needed nagging to get working on homework…

I got grumpy.

Self-centered.

Full of an inner rant about—

I’m not going to go into it. I’m assuming everyone pulls the martyr card sometimes, so you know what I mean.

And in my kitchen, bent over with a dustpan, God stopped me.

Look at the verse for the day.

It wasn’t audible, but I knew for certain that I was supposed to put down the dustpan, cross to the microwave, and flip the verse calendar that sits on it to that day’s verse.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 (NIV ’84).

Seriously. That WAS the verse for that day.

Wow! You’re right, I prayed. How could I ever begin to compare my enduring to Christ’s? Help me to press on.

I did press on, but I still struggled with thoughts of self-pity, and this has continued off and on since Sunday (it would be better described as “on and off”). It’s been a recurring battle that I’ve either chosen to fight (with plenty of cries for help) or given into (yuck!).

On Sunday night, one of the women in our small group shared about a guilt battle that she has had to fight, over and over, in her head. It just won’t go away.

I’ve thought about her struggle as I’ve fought my own battle these last couple days. Why do some sin issues become recurring themes in our lives? Why aren’t they dealt with and done? Why do our cries for help for these sins grant release for only a short period before we have to do battle again?

But all my musings about the “why’s” haven’t helped me, either, even though I “know” some of the answers.

This morning I had to replace a burnt-out strand of lights on the Christmas tree. Even as I did this, my spirit continued to find all kinds of small things to gripe about. Tired of fighting the battle, I tried to shut my mind off. “Just stare at the lights,” I told myself. “They’re bright and beautiful.”

Look at the lights.

Somehow the phrase turned to Consider Him.

Consider Him, I thought. Consider Him.

“Oh, God!” I said in sudden realization, “Consider YOU!”

Not Your sufferings apart from You—like I’m trying to stack them up against my own petty “sufferings” and guilt myself into gratitude.

Consider YOU.

Because You are great and glorious and good. Because You are beautiful, bright light, and You long to shine into my darkness. And when I look at You, my darkness gets swallowed up.

When I look at You, I gain perspective. I see that, just as Your struggles had purpose, so do mine, even if I can’t see far enough to know what the purpose is. Just as You kept your eyes on the Joy of being reunited with Your Father Yourself and the Joy of reconciling many to Him, I can know there is an eternity ahead when I will know You in ways I can’t even imagine now.

When I consider Him, the rest of the Hebrews 12 passage gets worked out in my life.

I put up the lights, I wrote the above, and then I had to go to a dental appointment. The radio came on when I started the car, and the program was about women who are married to spouses who don’t follow Jesus. “Oh, that would be so hard,” I thought as I listened to the women’s stories of persistence and grace. “I’m so grateful for my marriage.”

Gratitude! For fellow believers—witnesses (Heb. 12:1)—who provide examples to me of turning to the Father again and again in their needs, and for the Father Himself, Who gives me exactly the right gifts—and exactly the right trials and discipline—to draw me closer to Him.

I’ve been far from gratitude these past few days. Most of my cheerfulness has been forced and false.

But considering Christ—Him alone—brought a real and genuine gratitude back and gave me sympathy for others.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.*

Consider HIM.

 

*Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel, copyright 1922

That's Maddie under the paper-sack mask!

That’s Maddie under the paper-sack mask!

Be the Dough

Emily is becoming our master cake maker! This is the angry bird cake she made for Patrick's sixth birthday (1/17/12). She made cake pops for the birds and pigs, colored almond bark to coat them, and then made a marshmallow fondant ("It tastes better than regular fondant," she told me.) for the details like eyes, noses, and beaks! It turned out so, so well.

Proof the yeast, add the flour, mix and knead, knead some more, let it rise, punch it down, shape the dough, let it rise…
And,
Finally,
Bake.
It’s a long process, a restful process.
Or a frustrating one.
It all depends on the perspective.
For most of the high school sophomores in the Bread of Life class I taught the first two weeks of January, frustration won over rest.
“Why does the yeast need to proof? And what does that mean?”
“Have I kneaded enough? No? Really? How much longer?”
“It’s still not ready?”
“It has to rise again?”
“When will it be done?”
We made yeast bread six times during the course, and some of them were still asking the same questions on day six.
I ask the same questions of God.
How long? When will this be over? Haven’t I been in this situation long enough? Isn’t there anything I can DO? Just WAIT?
Breadmaking is a complicated process–and a little magical, too. The yeast—captured as a living organism and then dehydrated (“put to sleep” in a sense)—is “waked up” by the warm liquid. It bubbles and pops on the surface, letting you know, “Yes, I’m alive! I will work.” You add flour (and a few other things) and begin to knead. As you shove at the dough, hit it, smack it, even toss it back and forth (if you have a couple people), the protein in the four (called “gluten”) begins to stretch; it becomes elastic and flexible.
Then you let it rest. While it rests, it rises, and you wait, peeking every so often to see it fill up the bowl. Finally (this is a long rise period), you punch it down, knock all the extra air out. It deflates when you do this, like a balloon gently popped. You form it then, into loaves or rolls or whatever shape you fancy, and it rises again, smoothing out the surface, becoming beautiful. Another wait, another rest.
And, finally, it bakes. And it rises a little more with the extreme heat that would have killed the yeast at any time prior in the process.
It’s a lot like spiritual growth. “Magic” is involved: the Living Water brings to life what was dead within us; the Holy Spirit allows us to stretch and grow beyond our natural limits. A Master Baker (like the Potter) knows the complicated process: how long we need (sorry, unintentional play on words) trials and troubles; when waiting periods will help us grow; the right time to knock us down a little, to let failure reveal sin areas in our lives; what shape is the perfect one for us and most useful for the Baker’s grand plan.
I know so little of the recipe and the plan for me. But God says, “I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you… thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jeremiah 29:11, Amplified version).
I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember that I don’t know what I’m doing, but it seems I have to tell myself again and again to “be the dough,” to let go of the desire to control.
And let God, my Master Baker, work.