Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Character of the Man

The Character of the Man:

I won't soon forget the long hard winter. My husband had 6 different jobs in 4 years, all paying thousands less than our living expenses. When you are in the midst of those times it is hard to see what good could be coming from it. I often wondered if God has gone on vacation. Questions, doubts and fears often plaqued my mind. It was one of the most profound times of my life. This was not a road we would have ever chosen for ourselves.

I knew after several months that it wasn't about the jobs. But what was it about? Now years down the road I can see what I couldn't see then. There was much to be gained for both of us. It wasn't about the money or the job. It was about the woman and the man. This is a tribute to the character of the man.

One job in particular that he had was with a water company. He thought it was going to be customer service and route sales, with good pay. It ended up being delivery, carrying 80 pounds of water everyday, running at full speed to get finished. Though we had prayed fervently for a good route, he ended up with the third worst route in the company. Leaving at 6:00AM and getting home around 8:00PM was common. Exhausted he would walk in the door, hungry and weary, but never giving up. He is a man of perseverance.

When God removed him from that job he opened another job at a handyman company. It was the most bizarre thing. Though the owner knew he had very little experience, he begged him to come and work for the company, telling him they would train him. He accepted the job and began his training, doing a perfect job on one of his assignments. Two and 1/2 weeks later they let him go after changing owners. God was restoring a place inside David, allowing him to face the lies of failure and walk away from them. He had not failed. He had given all he had to give. It was his best. He is a man of integrity.

The next job God took him to was a season where he worked two jobs. One job was full-time in the daytime working in an upscale fast food restaurant, and the 2nd job was at night 2-3 nights a week at Starbucks. He worked long and hard to make sure we were taken care of. I tried to go to work to alleviate one of the jobs, but he was insistent that I stay home with the children. Faithfully he went to work each day, never complaining. He is a man of faithfulness.

During that season, one of the men from church came up to pray for him. Before he started to pray he looked him in the eye and said, "God wants you to know that you are an honorable man. You are an example to the men here. There are men who wouldn't do what you are doing for your family." David's eyes welled up with tears. He needed to hear that. The weariness that was over him dissipated in that moment. He was an honorable man. That's all that mattered, really. It does alot to a man to be seen for who they really are. He is a man of honor.

God dropped another job in his lap. This job was promising and brought an income that allowed him to quit his 2nd job. The owner of the company ended up not being a man of his word. Every week David would have to go and fight for his paycheck. One week in particular he had to stand up and challenge the owner. In that season I saw the warrior in the man. He is a man of strength.

God moved him on to another job with a contracting company. The owner of the company put his 24 year old son over David as the boss. I saw grace in David as he submitted himself to the authority of a cocky young man who talked down to him with disrespect. He is a man of humility.

The company they were contracting for offered to take him on in a fulltime position. He accepted. Now he is working for men who see his work and appreciate him. He walked the "season of the jobs" with faithfulness. He never gave up. He is a man of endurance.

I was thinking back over those years the other day, since we are now out of them. A sense of awe, honor and respect came over me as I realized how much I had seen during those times. Something deeper had taken place in my heart besides the pruning God had done in me, which was huge. I had seen my man through God's eyes. I, like Him, am proud of David.

How often through the years had I seen the nitpicky things that irritated me above the attributes of the man? Too many, I'm afraid. Too many times I had focused on what he wasn't doing instead of all that he was. Something changed for me in that season of life. I began to see the character of my man.

So how about you? What do you seeing in your man?

Rom. 13:7(Amplified) Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due.

With all my love, and gratitude for the man that you are, David, I honor you.


©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Coming Into His Room

I am doing a new Bible study with the women at church on Friday mornings. It is "Live a Praying Life" by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. This study is rocking my world.

I have known of God my whole life, but have been truly following Him for 28 years. I grew up in the Bible belt where I was told that to follow God I needed to have a prayer list and a morning prayer time to show my love for God and my desire to be a good soldier of the Lord. I can remember the long lists that I would take out each day and pray through. Before long I lost interest in it as it was so monotonous for me. It was not a "God birthed" burden of prayer, but a "duty birthed". I think of those in other faiths who go through their rituals of prayer in order to fulfill a requirement of their faith. That is how my prayer list was to me. It was a ritual to fulfill a "man imposed" requirement.

I lived many years as a Pharisee bound to the law, performance and striving for God. Slowly but surely He is restoring me to a relationship with Him that is out of response instead of obligation. One of those areas has been prayer. After years of the ritual of my "prayer list" I was burned out in prayer, so much so that I would even say if you asked me that my prayer life stunk.

God began speaking to me about prayer at different intervals during this purging of the law He had me in. I remember once just sitting in my bathtub crying. The sobs were coming from some deep place inside me. Life had been hard and I was so weary. I was struggling to hang onto my faith and believe in His goodness. Everything was falling apart around me.

I couldn't hear His voice, I couldn't find His embrace. I knew in my mind that He would never leave me or forsake me, but I couldn't "feel" Him. As I sat in the tub, overwhelmed by emotion I could not speak a word. I couldn't even "cry out" to Him for help. There were no "prayers". All I could do was sob and groan. And He came, like I had never known, He came.

Jennifer Kennedy Dean says from Psalm 139, "When a need or desire is so deep in me that I do not even have a sentence to say and all I have is a groan, God knows it all. When we don't have anything but a groan, God has seen it all articulated."

I will never forget that night and how He came for me. Without uttering a word He rescued me. It was a new place of freedom for me. I didn't have to say all the right words to be delivered. God saw my groans and sobs articulated and He came and brought me out into His embrace. I was changed forever.

Prayer is a word that has been distorted in the mind of many Christians. We have come to make it look and be a certain way. What I am beginning to understand is that prayer can be all sorts of things, from worship, to listening, to groans, to words. My groans and sobs are the prayers of my heart. It is astounding.

One time when I was asking God about all this He talked to me about my Lydia. She's an affectionate one who always has loved being nearby, freely giving hugs. She would flow in and out of my room throughout the day. She loved to sit on my lap in the rocking chair, her head upon my chest, listening as I talked on the phone. Being a hugger, she would often walk in my room just to give me a hug, then walk out. There were times she would come in wanting to talk about herself or others. And sometimes she would need to know how much I loved her. In and out of my room she would flow, doing whatever was on her heart to do. 

Jennifer Kennedy Dean says "There is an underflow of prayer in every believer. When Jesus came to take residence in you, He's began to pray in and through you. He's always praying in you. There is an undercurrent of prayer active in you. Not because of how good you are but because of how good He is. He's the one motivating it. He's the one initiating it. As you come to know this you will get tapped into Jesus praying in you."

Jesus is always praying in and through me. It's not about me figuring out all the right words to say. it's about letting Him flow out of me, whether through groans, worship, sobs, hugs or words. Just like my little girl, prayer is not about saying all the right words or setting aside a specific time each day that is required. It's about tapping into what He is doing inside me. That which He wants to do through me, He will put on me. He's the initiator and the motivator, burdening me for the things that He is burdened for. Whether getting up into His lap and listening while He talks, or telling Him what is on my heart, prayer is responding to the undercurrent of prayer that is already active in me, because He inhabits me. Now that is freedom.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.



©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Friday, February 8, 2008

What is Joy To You?

How many times when sharing my heartache and struggles did I hear, "the joy of the Lord is your strength", or "joy is available to you, it's your's, it's already been given." My well meaning friends were trying to encourage me, but I would find myself deflated. Are those words supposed to make me feel better? If joy has been given then where is it? Is this supposed to be some type of treasure hunt to discover it? Am I just looking in the wrong places? I wanted to have joy. I prayed for it, but I couldn't find it. No matter how much I tried, it eluded me. What was joy anyways? Was it a feeling? 

Life was beating down hard. It felt like one hurricane after another was hitting the shores of our lives, much like Florida experienced back in 2004. Did you know that 4 hurricanes hit the state of Florida in that year? One of them hit, went out to sea, then came back and hit again. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like a storm comes in, you get back up, recover a little, only to be hit again? I have. 

I found myself in the middle of reading the scripture in John 16. Jesus is talking to the disciples, telling them of his impending death. He tells them that He is going to leave them, and where He goes they cannot go. Then He says to them, verse, 20, "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." That verse stopped me dead in my tracks. Wait a minute. You mean that they aren't going to have joy? What about "the joy of the Lord is your strength?" Isn't that true for them? 

Jesus goes on to tell them that it will be like a woman giving birth. While giving birth she is in anguish, but once that baby is in her arms, she forgets the pain for the joy of having the child. The disciples have no idea what they are getting ready to face, really. But think about it for a minute. They have left everything to follow Christ. They have no jobs to return to. Life as they knew it is gone. They have followed the one who they thought would deliver them from the Roman rule. Things have built to a crescendo and now Jesus tells them He's leaving and they can't go with Him. What do you think they felt when they saw Him get arrested or worse, crucified. Can you just imagine how their worlds must have come tumbling in on them, like a hurricane wind toppling the roof of a house? How did they feel when Jesus was gone and life just didn't make sense? What were they to do now? There was no joy, only grief, anguish and pain. What had just happened? Where was God? 

As I struggled my way through the circumstances of life, things surfaced in me. I battled doubts like I had never known before, feeling abandoned, forgotten, and even cursed by God, while those around me seemed to be flourishing. What was really true about God? Was God really there for me? Did He see me? Did He care? Why was He doing this to me? The doubts and unbelief were surfacing, tossing me about. What was I going to stand in? That's what the season was about. He wanted those things in my heart that were "shakable", leaving what was unshakable to remain. What was I going to believe?

Joy came on resurrection day for the disciples as they found Jesus. Joy was not a feeling. Joy was Jesus coming to them, victorious over sin, death and the grave, victorious over their circumstances. 

Joy for me was Jesus in me causing me to rise up and declare what was true when overwhelmed with the weariness of hard circumstances; Jesus in me keeping me from sinking while walking in the quicksand of doubts and unbelief; Jesus in me putting one foot in front of the other against the gale forced winds of the hurricanes that hit my shore. In the midst of really hard circumstances I found Jesus overcoming in and through me. That was the joy that no man could take away.

To the very core of my being I believe that when we find God to be enough, in the midst of the "dark caves" of life that is joy. Circumstances still hitting us hard, we rise up in faith to stand on the truth that Jesus has come to overcome our world. 

The world full of doubts and unbelief is shut down around us. In the weariness He comes and sweeps us up in His embrace. As with a child being placed in your arms after the anguish of childbirth, the pain but a fleeting memory, joy floods the soul. Just as Jesus came for the disciples at resurrection day He comes for us. Joy is Jesus in us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. We are alive because He is alive in us. Christ in us, the hope of glory, the joy that no man can take away.



©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd