Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Enemy of Thanksgiving

I have a sign in my living room that a crafty friend made me a few years back at my request. I love it and don't ever take it off its shelf but I realize now it doesn't say the right thing. It should read, 'How Many Days Until Thanksgiving' since that's what I'm really counting down to. Because when we finally get there, I stop counting and simply savor each day as my favorite through the end of the year.
We are inching closer and closer. Just nine days until we feast. It's time to start planning menus and grocery lists. For me, these recent years also mean changing sheets and anticipating the return of a college kid or two. 

Oh you noticed I left out a certain newlywed couple? Well, I'm choosing denial as my coping mechanism because they will not be at our table next week. Sniff sniff. So I won't be talking about that today. 
Scott continues to preach gratitude every Sunday with a new action item each week. Having homework keeps the subject on our minds continually. 

I was thinking how nice it would be if saying thanks was my automatic first reaction to everything both wanted and unwanted. I mean, the natural knee jerk response like when I think about Christmas. I am immediately happy and excited and can't wait for all the traditions and festivities that come with it. Or when I think about my kids being all together with us. I am giddy and can't stop grinning.
 
Many of you know for years now I keep a daily list of what I'm grateful for, so that should mean I've mastered it, right? I'd like to tell you that's true, but let's be real here. I fail often. As I consider this, I realize there is an enemy to the practice of thanksgiving. It has a name and that name is entitlement.

Anyone raising teenagers is well aware of how this word presents itself.  For example, I imagine many of you have heard this, "But their parents let them fill in the blank so I should be able to."  Entitlement.

Or "I'm a senior and seniors deserve fill in the blank." Entitlement.

Or maybe you know someone who has reached a certain advanced age and says things like, "I have lived long enough now and deserve fill in the blank." Entitlement.

I think it's even starting much younger like when our kids come home comparing to their friends saying, "Mom, everyone has fill in the blank, I'll be an outcast if I'm the only one who doesn't." Entitlement.

It is so easy to see it in others, isn't it?  What if we looked in the mirror at our grown-up selves? The truth is, I'm just as susceptible to copping this attitude as anyone else. Looking back over my life I'm embarassed at how many times I not only felt entitled but actually spoke it out loud. Cringe with me:

Like when I was approaching graduation from high school and tried telling my parents, "I'm 18, you can't tell me what to do. I can do whatever I want." Entitlement.

Or when I grumbled at age 20 because there wasn't a suitable mate in sight. "Why can everyone else find a husband? I should have one too." Entitlement.

Or maybe when several years into marriage and childbearing we were still bouncing between apartments unable to afford our own house. I whined, "It's not fair. Everyone else has a house.  We work hard, we deserve one too." Entitlement.

Let's not forget the never ending comparison of our gifts and abilities to someone else's. "Why can't I write or speak or sing or play an instrument like her? I deserve to be good at any of those things." Entitlement.
Did you notice a second word that accompanies the self-infused entitlement?  Deserve. Yuck. Where do I get off thinking I deserve anything someone else has? 

I looked up entitlement in the dictionary and found this: "the right to be guaranteed benefits...."  Rights. Now there's a culturally signifcant term.

Who among us doesn't feel we have the right to expect something we believe we deserve?

The person whose heart is steeped in gratitude, that's who. 
Steeped in gratitude?  That is so counter-cultural when you consider our entitlement issues. That's the point! As with so many issues for us Christ-followers trying to be obedient to the Scriptures, entitlement falls into the category of "Do not conform to the world...." Romans 12:2

You see, the common denominator and breeding ground for rights, deserving something and entitlement come from fixing our gaze horizontally (conforming to the world) on what others have or can do or have accomplished. 

Comparison is a downward spiral, a losing game we dare not play, a trap we can't afford to fall into. Along with the others, it is also found at the root of entitlement.

It's what keeps us from being grateful.

When we compare with others, we give room for entitlement to grow in our hearts, which then gives birth to discontentment which will eventually take up every inch of space leaving no room for gratitude.
Jesus knew we might fall for this tactic of the enemy and gave us instruction through a conversation with Peter, whom He dearly loved. Jesus told Peter how he would live and how he would glorify God in his death. It wasn't very glamorous and certainly insinuated pain and suffering. Peter looked around.

He saw John nearby and asked Jesus what was going to happen to him. Jesus said to Peter, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" John 21

I can so relate to Peter. God has pointed me to those verses many, many times when I'm given to whining, complaining and comparing.

"What is that to you, Angela? Follow me." In other words, "Mind your own business and keep your eyes on Me."

When I choose to follow Jesus, I am consciously trusting Him to lead me wherever He is going. Wherever He wants me. Because that place is where He will be too.

Yes, it may be tough. Yes, I may experience pain. Yes, I may be asked to go there alone. But, He will be there.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to be anywhere God isn't. 

Choosing to follow Him with full trust births thanksgiving. My thoughts are then steered in the direction of Who I know God to be, what I read recorded in the Bible about His character and faithfulness, and what I've witnessed in my own life (listed in my journal).  

And I give thanks. Come to think of it, I can't stop saying "Thank You" because He is not done. Not done with His kingdom agenda. Not done with me. There is so much more to come.

When I make room for all that, everything else dims.
Maybe as Thanksgiving approaches, we should pay closer attention to the words we speak or allow to be spoken in our homes. Have some of those nasty words above subtly crept into your heart and home? Do you see entitlement attitudes at work? Maybe you've never really noticed until now. 

Remember, entitlement is the enemy of thanksgiving which means we need a radar up, sensitive to spotting it and squashing it so that gratitude has room to grow and reside long after the turkey leftovers are eaten.
 
Just a side note (let's call it a bonus!) - have you noticed that grateful people are much more pleasant to be around than Johnny Rainclouds? Me too and I know which one I'd rather be and be around.

It's certainly not too late to make some changes. I know I'll be working on this, requiring it of myself and urging it in the ones I'm raising.

Happy Thanksgiving friends. I'm grateful for you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Women

I'm a little surprised to discover that we are ten days into November and I have not written a word about Thanksgiving. I am well aware that it is holiday time! Oh yes I am. If there was any doubt, keep reading. These friends made an appearance November 1st.


And the first tree went up too.  Now don't get offended.  There's nothing Christmasy about this tree (except that it is a tree with lights on it). You can clearly see that it is decorated in all brown (ornaments, ribbon and garland compliments of Hobby Lobby).  Not a Christmas color.  A Fall color.  It screams Thanksgiving!

Here's my favorite room in the house all set for November. Even though we are not eating the main meal here this year, I will still enjoy it for the month.
Scott has been preaching the last few weeks about gratitude. It's always good to put that in the front seat in November. I keep a daily list year-round of things I'm thankful for, what brings me joy each day, and even things I don't want that I'm trusting God will use for my good like many of you do. Doing this kind of feels like Thanksgiving everyday, without the turkey and pumpkin pie.

When I think about what I'm thankful for, women a little further down the road than me and their wisdom always rises to the top of my list.  I am very blessed to have many older women willing to take an interest in me and pour their experiences and advice into my life.

As a woman I have always been well acquainted with my inadequacies and insecurities.  Because of that, I have always been hungry for the advice of women I admire figuring if I want to turn out like them, I need to get close enough to ask how and listen.

I'll share a little secret with you - it always pays off. I have received more than this blog has the space to record.

I wonder if I would ever have opened my home to entertain without women showing me how to do it by teaching me in their homes.

I doubt I could be enjoying a 24 year long marriage without the stories of experienced women describing the sometimes too funny to get rattled over God-given differences between husbands and wives.

I'm sure I could not have raised these three kids if I didn't have older women to listen to my doubts, fears and sometimes panic reassuring me, "You can do this. Here's what worked for me. Here's what didn't." 

I never could have led women's ministries for all the years I have if they weren't there to notice me, affirm my gifts and abilities, and show me how best to use them.

Just the other day I met one of these irreplaceable ladies for lunch. Whenever I'm with her, I come away energized, ready to plunge deeper into the life I've been given with renewed resolve, and wanting to be like her when I grow up.

As always, she inquired about everything that pertains to me. Then she reviewed items discussed during our last visit and asked about progress (i.e. accountability). She promised her continued prayers for my family. She encouraged me to trust God with everything.  Then she said something she hasn't said before. "We all need a kick in the pants once in a while. I promise I'll give you one when you need it."

I didn't laugh, but I did smile because I felt the love behind it and appreciate this so much. She wouldn't be the first. I remember many a kick in the pants from my own mother. Unfortunately, for awhile I was not a very good student.

Then there's the older woman in our little church who watched an unbelieving boyfriend of mine walk the aisle and pledge faith. She warned me to wait for the fruit. I didn't and a number of consequences happened. Talk about regret.

Still another calmed down my overactive emotions when I wanted to let a leadership team member go who regularly got on my nerves. I listened and humbled myself. No regret.

It can be easy to come alongside and be a cheerleader. To encourage and affirm. They like us when we are always positive, but what if the young women in our lives are not making the best decisions? What if they are heading down roads we know they will later regret?  Do we have a responsibility to speak that?  Not everything they want to pursue is good for them or for the body of Christ that is looking on. (Don't forget as a Christian all of our decisions affect others.)

It's tricky because we are living in a culture of tolerance. Everything's good. Nothing is "wrong". If she's enthusiastic, we don't want to be the wet blanket. If there isn't a black and white directive in Scripture we back down even though our advice is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

Sometimes a little I-care-enough-about-you-to-interfere can stop or at least slow down a possible train wreck. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:12 "Everything is permissible for me - but not everything is beneficial..."

Maybe it's a sign of getting older, but I just can't do it. I'm not into false flattery and I can't give politically correct advice when asked.

Recently a sweet young woman I love asked how I thought she should handle a situation she was facing.  Having experience from the other side of it, I knew my response wasn't going to be what she was expecting but I wanted her to consider her perspective was not the only one. When I shared what I thought she should do, she said that she never in a million years imagined me saying that. She was expecting the opposite (me taking her side). And that she hadn't thought of it that way. And that it made sense.

Sensing I had her best interest at heart (this is key), she slowed down, deciding to wait it out and pray. (Bonus - it gave value to the pain of my experience.)

I think we older girls owe the young'ns the honesty of confidently saying, "Maybe that's not the best idea or have you considered the consequences?" Surely we have benefitted from that at some point or another whether we took the advice or ignored it. If we don't, who will?

If you are a young woman, I can't encourage you enough to find an older woman you respect, who has the fruit of godliness and wisdom displayed in her life, and ask her for input. Over and over again in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we are advised to live wisely and seek Godly counsel and warned about what results if we don't - foolishness.

Whenever I'm feeling particularly self-important or unwilling to listen  to someone who is for me, this verse comes to mind.

"Do not be like the horse or mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they (God's instructions) will not come to you."  Psalm 32:9

Isn't that the main thing anyway? That God's instructions will come to us. Another reason why we need each other. So grateful.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Burtis Kids Busted

They say one of the problems with social media is that we tend to only share only the good stuff of our lives.  What we are proud of.  Our finest moments and achievements.  Well, not today.  

In case I've painted a picture of our family for you that is always favorable, today you will see what I really deal with behind the scenes.  

The sass.  
The sarcasm.  
The relentless attack and accusations on my parental love and committment to these children I carried and sustained in my very body.  

How dare they?  

I believe they deserve this post today. 

It all started after my oldest son (formerly known as my beloved firstborn) apparently read my blog yesterday (likely the first time).  

I innocently and lovingly shared some Halloween photos of Drew, Ben and Ally when they were little and much cuter.  If you missed it, you'll need to read the last portion.  You can quickly catch up here.  

(In case this is hard to follow, the writer's name appears at the top of their contribution.  I am in blue.)

Note the time these shenanigans started.






Note: it's morning now.








Well, aren't they adorable with all their intellectual humor?

Can't you imagine them high 5-ing each other?
I mean seriously, who do these people think they are? 

What can we learn from this?

1.  Don't get your kids ipods - ever.
2.  Never compliment or brag about them to anyone.
3.  No matter how fair you try to raise them - they always think someone else is the favorite.

At least Ron, Renee and I don't do this to our mother.
Nor do Scott, Tim and Johanna subject their parents to this disrespect and ungratefulness.

Lastly, don't even get me started on the spelling and grammatical errors up there.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Powerful Statement

So one thing my husband Scott and I have in common is that we are sermon junkies.  We love a great message from the Bible delivered by a gifted communicator.  On the top of our list is Andy Stanley.  I've quoted him many times here.

We try to listen to everything he teaches because it is always relevant and always truthful and almost always somehow exactly what we need to hear at the moment we hear it.  God works in cool ways like that (which is another reason why we need to have a steady diet of His Word coming into our lives often).

Saturday we had yet another wonderful opportunity to travel about an hour one way to Ally's last volleyball tournament. Instead of settling into my seat and like always putting my MercyMe soaked playlist on the radio that he patiently endures, I spoke Scott's love language instead when I said, "Do you have Andy's new series on your ipod?"  Every once in a while I'm a good wife.

He wasted no time cuing it up. 
Scott drove, I knitted a sock and our souls were fed.  All the way there and all the way back.

In The Meantime is a sermon series for those of us who find ourselves in a hard, undesirable situation(s) that we can do nothing about.  Absolutely nothing.  We are simply at its mercy.  What are we to do?  He had my attention.

One of the last things said right before we pulled into our driveway made me put down the knitting needles and scramble for a piece of paper and pen because I knew it was one of those powerful statements that I would revisit for a long time.  We backed it up and listened to it three or four more times.

You have no idea what or who hangs in the balance of your decision to remain faithful when everything around you says 'be faithless'.  And you won't ever know if you don't see this through and trust God to be faithful to you and His promises, accomplishing His purpose through it.

Neither did the Apostle Paul who while in prison decided to best use his time to write letters to churches. He had no idea those letters would become part of the New Testament that would ultimately be for our benefit. 

See what I mean?  And that's just one thought - there was so much more.

The truth is, Scott and I are not the only people I know going through adversity, affliction, difficulty, God's silence, God's uncooperation, etc.  Almost everyone is in some way or another.  That's why I had to share this with you today.  I can never keep anything this good to myself.

Don't quit before you find out what or who hangs in the balance of your faithfulness.  And if you are in an 'In the Meantime' situation, download or watch these messages.  You won't waste a minute of your time and who knows, you might get just the push you need to get to the finish line with your faith intact.  And even with joy!  I think I did.

You may even become a sermon junkie too.  Trust me, it's not such a bad thing.  

Click here to listen

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's Not On You

So have you seen the commercial on tv where a person turns into a diva/monster of some kind because they are 'not themselves when their hungry' and the solution to bring them back to normal is to give them a Snickers bar?  Yeah, it's funny.
Last week when the weather sort of turned cooler, I switched my outdoor workout back indoors.  (Hello again Jillian, I did not miss you all summer.)  Because the sun is shining today and it's warm out again, I grabbed my charged up ipod and headed outside.  It was then I realized what my Snickers bar is.

You see thanks to my tech-savvy family members, this ipod is loaded with all my favorite groups and songs that powerfully point my attention to how awesome God is, how much He loves me and the fact that He has a plan for my life.  It wasn't long before my spirits were up and I was feeling hopeful and content - back to myself again.

As song after familiar song played, other things came to mind too.  Things that are taking up residence in my thinking from the content I'm studying in the Bible right now.  

Specifically this simple 4 word phrase:  It's Not On You

Check this out:  "As spiritual people, we tend to tie our hopelessness to our belief that God has somehow let us down or refused to come through.  Job's raw confession -

What strength do I have that I should continue to hope? What is my future, 
that I should be patient? Is my strength that of stone, or my flesh 
made of bronze?  Since I cannot help myself, the hope for success 
has been banished from me.  Job 6:11-13 

conveys that he felt hopeless because he could not help himself."*

Well I certainly know what that feels like.  Strength gone.  Patience gone.  All hope of success as depending on me, banished.  You too?  

We live in a culture that celebrates problem solvers, leaders who are firmly in charge seemingly able to control everything, and a well-planned lives.  Have you ever heard this, "God helps those who help themselves"?  Yeah, that's not in the Bible.

Consequently, when we can't get there ourselves or are tired of waiting for rescue, hopelessness can settle in.  The truth is, we don't have to go there.  Just like He was for Job, God is our help.  God is our strength.  He is the One who is holding the world in place.  He is the One ultimately in control.  It was never meant to be on us.

What is the weight of the world you're trying to lug around?  It was easy for me to come up with a few boulders.  I'll spare you the gory details this time.

One of the songs that came on next was a new favorite by MercyMe.  Not shocking for those of you who know me well.  Certain people have actually accused me of having nothing else on that ipod.  Psh.  There's only 120 MercyMe songs on there - plenty of room for others.

Unless you've bought their most recent cd, you probably haven't heard this one.  If you'd like to listen to it (and I highly recommend you do) click here.

Check out these lyrics.

I don't have to know you
To know that you will go through hard times
It's just part of life
Don't let that moment blind you
And don't let it define you
Take heart, that's not who you are

Our God is able, more than capable
To be faithful to the end
He'll finish what He started

Remember you're forgiven
So there's no need to give in
To the lie that you're disqualified

No matter what you've done
Grace comes like a flood
There's hope to carry on
He'll finish what He started
No matter what you face
His mercy will not change
He's with you all the way
He'll finish what He started

This work He started in you now
He's faithful to complete it
The promise was sealed when He cried out
It is finished

He'll finish what He started

I know what you're thinking and I couldn't agree more - you should go out today and buy this cd or at least click on the link and listen to it yourself.  

Here's the thing.  The day you decided to follow Jesus through faith in His death and resurrection, God started a good work in you.  And no matter what He will complete it. 

It's not on you to figure out all the details.  Your job and mine is simply this -  believe it.

Guess what happens when we do?  We're blessed.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said 
to her will be accomplished!  Luke 1:45

What has the Lord promised?  Straight from the Apostle Paul's pen:  "....He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Phil. 1:6  He'll finish what He started!

Yeah, this song and the Bible truth it underscores beats a Snickers bar any day. 

Oh and I believe this finally settles which Bible verse I will print beside Ally's picture in her last high school yearbook. 
  
*Beth Moore in Children of the Day