Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Life is a Vapor

Ain't that the truth! This month has gone by so quickly! I can NOT believe it will be May soon. I have mixed emotions about it. I am certainly stoked because I will be finished with this semester of classes in about 4 1/2 weeks! And I am also nervous because of the unknowns and quick progression that may be happening in the summer and fall. Stephen and I are still trying to be sensitive to where God is directing us...even though we are more certain that it is into the military as a Chaplain. I'm excited to see where God takes us and watch His plans unfold. :) No buns in the oven yet, but we are still trusting that the Lord is big enough to take care of that as well.

Mr. Burks passed away last weekend. He was my great friend's (Amanda and Mallory Shultz) grandfather. Mr. Burks treated me as though I was also one of his granddaughters. He was very sweet, caring, funny, and sincere. I loved going over to their house knowing that I was going to get a big "grandpa and grandma" hug from Mr. and Mrs. Burks. My grandfather's are both in Europe so I have not gotten to see them too often growing up. Grandpa Burks used to always come into Amanda's room whenever I would go over to their house and offer me something to eat! :) It seemed like he always had something VERY...ummm...interesting for us to try. Even though I didn't always like the food (except for the chocolate covered nuts!), I still pretended like I did so I wouldn't disappoint him. I thought he was so cute! He supported our singing and I know that he loved his family with a passion. Grandpa Burks has left such a tremendous legacy for his children, grandchild, and me. He was a faithful man that loved the Lord and wasn't ashamed. He knew that his life was "but a vapor" and lived accordingly. His funeral was the hardest funeral that I've ever gone to. I'm grateful to see his fire and passion being lived out in my good buddies Amanda and Mall as I know God has great things in store for them as well.

The day of Grandpa Burks funeral I received a letter in the mail at my job. An older woman wrote to us that her husband of 57 years had just passed away 8 days ago. :( She said that going to the grocery was very difficult as he usually always came with her. He used to sneak off but she always knew what he was up to. She would see him coming down the aisle with a big grin and 3 long yellow roses. He knew that she loved yellow roses. Coming back to reality, she walked past the meat aisle and searched for the perfect, small piece of steak. She remembered how her husband loved his T-Bone steak cooked. Next to her, she saw a woman who was tall, thin, blond, and beautiful. The woman picked up a package of meat and dropped it into the basket...hesitated and put it back. She watched this woman and caught eye contact with her. The woman smiled and said, "My husband loves T-Bones, but for this price? I don't know." The older woman told her that her husband had just passed away a few days ago...and she urged the young woman to buy the steaks and cherish every moment that she had with him. The young woman eyes filled with emotion, she picked up the steaks, and walked away. The elderly woman went back to shopping and tried to decide which size milk carton to get now. "I guess a quart will do" she decided. Looking up, the elderly woman saw the thin figure walking toward her again. She saw the young woman smiling and in her hands were three long yellow roses! The young woman gave her a kiss on the cheek and let her know that they were already paid for. The elderly woman began to cry as she then knew that she was not all alone! The elderly woman felt so loved and encouraged.

When I read this letter, I was crying at my desk! It was SO moving and convicting. I take for granted the sweet moments and priceless opportunities that I have with my husband and the ones I love. Life is too short for mediocre living! God, please help me to be thankful so each little blessing that you have given graciously to me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Passion

An “assignment” that my counselor gave to me was to separate some special time to get alone and watch The Passion of the Christ. Oh no no no…I do NOT want to do that! I tried to reason with Diana (my counselor) that I have the movie; however, I have never been able to watch it all the way through. It has always been too painful for me to endure. I can’t handle watching the gruesome suffering of such an innocent Man. In the past, I usually have kept myself busy doing other things whenever that movie came on. Watching that movie would bring up gut wrenching feelings that I did not want to experience ANY time soon. I resolved, “Diana, I can’t handle that movie…it’s too much…it’s too sad.” She wouldn’t have any of my excuses; in fact, it seemed as if the more I rejected-the more she was sure that was the right decision. I knew in my heart that I needed to see it so, of course, I agreed.

How did this come up anyway? Well, God, was showing me that I have the tendency to play the victim role. And sure! I have been through a lot of crap in my short life so far…BUT…let’s not forget what I have done to contribute the crazy mess. It’s easier to see how I have been afflicted and to receive condolences for it…RATHER than admitting my need for control, my pride, my unwillingness to forgive, my desire to hold on to bitterness, my fear of being inferior, my fear of being abandoned, and the list goes on. Admitting to these and owning up to them, would require that I furthermore admit that I NEED God’s forgiveness. Of course! I am not an amateur at praying, “Dear Jesus, Please forgive me of my sins, Thank you. Amen.” I never really enjoy delving in to the long list of sins that I have. That, for me, would be TOO depressing. Be sides, surely I’m not THAT bad…that stuff is normal, right? NO! It’s not, even avoiding to acknowledge my sin-is sin in itself! Ok, so maybe if I watch The Passion than something magical will happen inside of me and I’ll be “sorry” for real. What an idot I was!

I waited 1 WHOLE week to watch the movie. I just got off work and realized that I was on spring break, no homework was due that night, Stephen wouldn’t be home for an hour, I didn’t need to put dinner on for a few more hours, and miraculously all of my excuses were gone. It was as if I knew I had a date with God. My original thoughts as I began to watch the movie was, “Man, this looks so much like Hollywood, I mean come on! How does the world in the 21st century believe in a man that died and rose again on the 3rd day…That sounds WAY too much like a fairy tale to me…I mean seriously!” I’m just being honest about the thoughts that popped into my head. Then the first “scene” started…Jesus was in the Garden praying with sweat drops of blood. Satan came to tempt him and Jesus asked His Father that, “this cup be taken from me…nevertheless…not what I want but what You want.” Jesus was so vulnerable…He revealed his humanity. I saw Jesus as more than just a perfect guy that walked around the earth making the rest of us look bad….I saw him as a man who asked to somehow get out of this plan that was going to take place. He foresaw the pain, agony, betrayal, abandonment and death that he and others were going to experience. Who knows the unbelievable spiritual attack Jesus must have been under while praying in that Garden. In the movie, when Jesus is finished praying He has this powerful, focused, unshakable look in his eye as He then crushes the head of a snake that had been slithering around him! Whew! That took my breath away! That symbolized what Jesus was about to accomplish for ME! I saw him as my Warrior, my Protector, the Lover of my soul, and the Savior of the world. My heart actually started beating faster, as if, the Holy Spirit inside me was pleased as well.

Nevertheless...not my will...but thine be done...

The movie began to take a twist as the great suffering began…Via Delorosa. It showed how minuscule people…dust that He created…accused Him, punched Him, spat in His face, choked and chained Him, whipped him front and back, gave him 39 lashes removing flesh from his body, hammered a wreath of thorns into his scalp, forced him to carry a cross through the mocking crowd up to The Place of the Skull, Jesus then laid down his perfect body on the cross, He allowed them to nail stakes into His hands, and more nails into his precious feet. My heart broke... the Man I just envisioned as my Hero was letting the world torture Him. Why Jesus? Why are you letting them do this? Hasn’t it been enough already? I could barely see the TV as my eyes were gushing out tears. I sobbed into my pillow for the rest of the movie. Jesus cried out to God, “My God My God Why have you forsaken, me?” Again, Jesus allowed us to see his humanity…he felt abandoned. I do not believe that God literally turned his back on Jesus…but Jesus certainly experienced that pain. Then Jesus said, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit.”
Why would Jesus do this for me? For FREE! I don’t owe God anything? I deserve Hell and through Jesus I am going to Heaven. My sin was made desperately wicked in my eyes…BUT God’s LOVE for ME was made even greater. I read in Ephesians 2
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. BUT BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR US, GOD, WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, MADE US ALIVE WITH CHRIST EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN OUR TRANSGRESSIONS-IT IS BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED THROUGH FAITH…AND THIS NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD-NOT OF WORKS, SO THAT NO ONE CAN BOAST. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared IN ADVANCE for us to do."
Thank you for walking through this journey with me! This was SO timely for me as I now get to celebrate Easter in such a new light and more initmate way. Hallelujah! Christ is “raised from the dead and seated at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in this present age but also in the one to come.” Eph1

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grace That Is Greater Than All My Sin??

"Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,Thou mine inheritance, now and always:Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art."

Hmm...I just got out of my counseling session this evening. I always leave heavy...heavy because God speaks to me directly on very specific issues. All week the Spirit has been speaking to me through Galatians about freedom, grace, and faith. Reading"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir", lit a flame in my heart! That verse makes me want to shout! At the same time, there is a still small deceptive voice that honestly is not sure if she believes that. So that's it? There's nothing for me to DO? Please don't get me wrong, I grew up witnessing and sharing the gospel since elementary....but did/do I truly understand what the Gospel means for me personally? I mean, beyond my "mansion in the sky."

Man, I struggle desperately with the idea of GRACE. Dictionary Def: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. I don't deserve this! Surely God will wake up one day and see that Julie Griffin just wasn't worth it! How can I win the approval of a God who has already given me his stamp of approval through His Son? Wow, the truth comes out. For most of my life, I have been seeking the APPROVAL of others. I'm just going to be honest and blunt, that's what blogs are for, right? I crave that Pat On The Back, Atta Girl!, Good Job, and any form of praise I can get. This is disgusting and I am ashamed! Full of pride, self-sufficiency, anger and learning well to cover it all up and present it as a beautifully manicured distorted-yet more appealing-picture of...me.

This is certainly not the first time I've discovered my less than perfect attributes. So why is it that I am STILL struggling with truly allowing the gospel (meaning Grace, Forgiveness, and Surrender) to sink deep into the corridors of my heart? What holds me back? Is it because I do not see this sin for what it really is? What do you think about having an "idol" like Fear of Abandonment or Approval of Others? These are my idols that I guard with everything I have. Until I let go and see that Jesus Christ went through the pain of being Abandoned by His Father (My God My God Why has thou forsaken me!), until I see that he suffered the pain of disapproval from most of the world, until I see that he was tormented beyond my imagination ALL JUST for ME! I'll still ache in the belly of my soul. It will eat me up inside.

Whoever reads this, I know this is intense and I am vulnerably laying myself out there. If you feel lead, say a prayer for me. I know the Holy Spirit is doing a great work in my heart. The Path of Healing is much longer than I expected it to be. I'm SO thankful that this is where I am at right now. I had to learn that it's OK to NOT know all the answers. It's OK to be confused, because I've found over the past 8 months...that this is the exact spot where God comes in to work. This has been an exciting journey...I love you Lord. Please help me to understand your grace-I want it so badly! Uncover my "rose colored glasses" and let me see the depth and wickedness of my sin. Help me to see how much I need you. Keep me honest and vulnerable...I hate shows, faceds, and acts...please help me to stop playing them. Frankly, I AM A MESS! :) Thank you for loving this messy, broken, chipped, scared, and wounded piece of clay. Continue to shave away the unwanted pieces of me.

Once again I am reminded of " Julie.. Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" Gal 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onxhvivQYfI <-So good!