Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Problem with a picture of heaven...

My daughter was making a picture the other day. It had a shining man in a robe, standing at the end of a path, a fence with a gate off on one side, a tree with flowers on the other side, three rainbows criss-crossing each other across the sky, and other typical things found in nine-year-old girl's pictures.

"Mommy," she asked. "Do you know what this is a picture of?"

I didn't really bother to try to guess... I just said the usual, "It's pretty, what is it?"

"It's what I think heaven is like," she said. She went on to describe it in detail, pointing out each thing.

Then she went back to drawing and coloring, and later came and said, "Look, Mommy. I'm almost done. Can you see what I still have to color?" I pointed out some flowers were still white. "Uh huh," she said. "I still have to color the curbing, too, though."

I shoved down a laugh at that. I have never, ever, even once thought that there might be curbing in heaven! (For those of you who don't live in Florida or some other place where curbing is used in landscaping... it's colored concrete, laid down in curved 'curbs' along the edges of flower beds, between the beds and the grass.) But my daughter, having lived in Florida for most of her life, considers curbing to be a part of every well-landscaped yard... therefore, heaven must have curbing, too!

It got me to thinking, though, about heaven, and different people's conceptions of it. The Bible has a number of descriptions that we try to take into consideration, but I think most of us do the same thing... we take our favorite, most beautiful parts of the earth, we take out anything that might be considered an imperfection, and we imagine it in heaven. The problem is that our most incredible imaginings still fall far short.

When it comes right down to it, though, it doesn't really matter, does it? God made it to be perfect. And if there's anyone who would know how to make something perfect... for everyone all at the same time... it's God.

What is important is what my daughter mentioned when she was finished with her picture. She was observing her handiwork with satisfaction, for the most part.

"That's how I think heaven is," she said to herself, "except the gate. I should have drawn it open. That's how it always is, you know."

Out of the mouth of babes...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

God's provision isn't...

It's been a little while since I posted, I know... life's been busy. We've had our house on the market, dropped our asking price twice, finally got a buyer, encountered problems, worked out problems, encountered more problems, heard they got worked out, had the whole sale fall through, found out there might be a possibility of resurrecting the sale, had those hopes dashed... *sigh* You get the picture.

I find myself struggling between "taking it easy" trusting that God will work things out... and wondering why it sometimes seems that God isn't content with merely exercising our faith and trust and patience... He always seems to want to stretch it! But no sooner had I thought that last sentence out, then a lightbulb went off in my head. Of course! God's never content with letting us remain where we're at... He wants us to grow! Haven't I said as much on this blog? It's amazing how fast we forget things sometimes... you know?

For us, this whole moving thing is stretching us in so many ways, because we're almost starting over in so many ways. (...whenever it happens, of course.) When we first made these plans... well over a year ago... the real estate market here was booming. Our home was worth roughly three times what we paid for it, 5 years ago. We anticipated selling it and having a fantastic nest egg to use for our new start. But it didn't happen. The real estate market was starting its drop off as we were making those plans. Our house has lost so much of its recent value that we've lost almost 50% of that nest egg we thought we'd have. Yes, it's still worth over twice what we paid for it... but the loss of that money has challenged us. We don't have what we thought we needed, to follow through on the plans we had made.

So where does that leave us? Trusting God, of course, but sometimes it's easier said than done.

I'd like to share something about my husband. He is a giver. He is one of the most generous people I've ever met, in fact. And sometimes it's hard for me to accept that. There have been times when he's given money that I thought we needed... or would need soon. There's been times when we've been given a gift and he's passed it on to someone else more needy... and I'm sitting here thinking, "Wait a minute! What if God meant that gift for us! We need it!"

But I've come to realize that this giving heart that he has is a gift... to ME. It is, perhaps, one of the most valuable qualities that he has... one of biggest things I would loose out on if I lost him. See... I've always known that when you give, you plant a seed... a seed that always bears fruit. But more recently I've come to have a vauge realization that I really don't understand how many harvests I have gotten to partake of, merely because I am his wife. How many blessings would we have not gotten if the seed-planting was up to me? Really? Yes, I like to give, too, but I have to admit that I am usually only glad to give out of our abundance. I have a hard time giving some of our daily bread. The problem with that is this... the Bible says that there is a "time for planting and a time for reaping"... not "there is a time for reaping and planting, and a time for doing nothing." Which is exactly what I would probably end up doing.

My sister sent a link to an article a former pastor of hers had written. It was about money and how it has both a bright side and a dark side... it can be both a blessing and a curse. Much of the article (here, if you're interested) covers ground that God has already shown me in the past. But there was one sentance in there that really shook me... revealed me to myself.

"When you give, you defy the fear that you won't have enough."

And oh, how true that is. When we hear of someone that is needy, and I know my husband's mind starts thinking about giving to them, what do I do? I usually start mentally calculating how much we can spare... how much we can get by without, just in case he asks for my input. But that's not the point, is it? God's provision isn't for my plans... it's for His!

Better that I learn to just ask God how much He wants me to give and leave the provision for tomorrow up to Him. Better that I remember all of the times that He's dropped gifts on us straight from Heaven. Better that I take my trust in my Heavenly Father to a deeper level... to stop trusting that He will provide for my plans, and know that He's already taken care of the provision for His plans.

So I'm off on this adventure... to learn the deeper secret found in giving... to remember that God never promised to provide for my plans... to once again surrender and find out how much better God's plans are... to watch God blow my mind again with His provision and grace.

"For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation. " - Psalm 33:9-11

"The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps." - Proverbs 16:9

"Many plans are in a man's heart,
But the counsel of the LORD will stand." - Proverbs 19:21

"O LORD, You are my God;
I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name;
For You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. " - Isaiah 25:1

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,'
declares the LORD,
'Plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope.'" - Jeremiah 29:11
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