Have You Seen His Credentials?

wwwdrummondhouseplanscom-multigenerational-floor-plan-no-2278-mail-levelIf ever I am at a hotel with cable TV, it is my weakness to be watching the Home & Garden Channel, otherwise known as HGTV.  This was the case a few weeks ago when a friend and I took a trip to Sitka, Alaska to watch my husband and the other fishermen there during the short herring fishing season, scoop up the schools (of fish).  It really is an amazing sight to behold.  But when we were not hiking, photographing, eating or sightseeing, we would be back at the little house we rented, and I would turn on HGTV to see what the shows were about.  This is where my “aha” moment began.

It wasn’t long into the show “Property Brothers” that I found myself talking to the TV.  Much like a fan watching a sporting event, I could hear myself arguing with the people in the episode.  In this show, there are people who are looking for their dream house and the “Property Brothers” are there to help them find it.  Usually what the people want is out of their price range, so the Brothers, direct them to “fixer-upper” homes where the potential for renovation will give them what they are looking for.  This is when I get talking.

The prospective buyers walk through these sub-standard homes and begin complaining.  “This kitchen is hideous!” Or “I could never see myself in this house!”

I roll my eyes.  I’ve seen this show many times before, and the whole premise of this show is that these Property Brothers can turn a mess into a masterpiece in just a few days.  They are absolutely amazing!  Somehow the house-hunters in this show don’t acknowledge that fact. (It has to be in the script, that’s all I can conclude.)  The Brothers will say, “We can take out this wall here, and open this kitchen up to the east there, and make an island here….” and the House Hunter will reply with comments like “I’ve never taken down a wall before, and I can’t even imagine doing that.”  Or, “I don’t want a fixer-upper.  I don’t have any experience in renovating.”

“GAHHHH!!!”  I’m yelling at the TV now.  “Don’t you people ever watch this show?  Haven’t you seen what these guys can do?  Who asked you about your renovation experience anyway?  Have you seen the credentials these guys have?  Have you seen their work?  Don’t you know this show is all about them?”

The Brothers go back to their headquarters and design renovation plans for the three homes featured on the show then present them to the clients for them to choose which home and which renovation plan they would like to go for.  This is when the show gets good.

“O, Wow!!”  many of them will say.  “You can do this?”  “That doesn’t even look like the same house?”  “Are you kidding me?”

The choice is made, and the clients, although excited about their choices enter into the next phase–  nervous expectation.  Some of them hound the builders.  They come during the demolition and freak out over the mess. “You’re going to fix this aren’t you?” Some of them ask.  “This is never going to be finished.”  “I had a dream that you made this house an ugly freak show, and I just need to come and check on your work to see if my dream was true.” some have said.

This is where the Brothers have to send the clients away.  The clients have to be left “in the dark” so that the builders can complete their work without the interruptions, and so that there is a surprise in the final product for them to enjoy.

Here God starts speaking to me.  While I am yelling at the House Buyers and telling them to just shut their mouths and trust the Brothers, I realize that my life can be mirrored in this show.  With God as the Master Craftsman of my life, I can be found arguing with Him, freaking out at my circumstances, and re-iterating over and over to Him my lack of credentials to improve the mess I am in.  I question His motives, nervously check His work against my imaginations, and impatiently wait for something good to come of my trouble.  I get mad when He leaves me “in the dark”, and I don’t have the answers to all of my questions.  I am impatient.  I am afraid.  I am Cate.

Somewhere in my spirit I hear the Holy Spirit asking me, “Cate, have you seen His credentials?  Haven’t you watched this show before?  Don’t you know He brings beauty from ashes?  Who said the outcomes are up to you?  The Expert is in full control.”

Yeah, I’ve seen His credentials.  I’ve seen His splendor in the midnight sky.  I’ve given birth to four of His finest creations.  I’ve watched Him transform my life from bitterness and fear, to faith and trust, and I’ve watched Him transform the lives around me.  And I am reminded of this scripture from the Psalms:

Psalm 127:1

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,

the builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain.

Yes, Lord.  You are to be trusted.  Yes, Lord you have my life in your hands.  Yes, Lord I put my faith in you.

As the show ends with amazed clients looking at the most beautiful home they have ever seen, I too, will stand in awe of God’s goodness when this life is over, and I get to see the plan He unfolded, and the miracles He performed to bring it about.  He can make a mess a masterpiece!


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I Want To See You

Vows We Make Part 2

Yesterday, I blogged about the decisions we make in life when we are young and/or vulnerable and how many of those decisions become secret vows that set our course in different areas of life. This subject has fascinated me over and over as I have studied it in my life and in the lives of people around me. When you begin to hear the phrase, “Oh, I would never….”, you can be sure there is a vow in place somewhere, and that decision is rooted in some experience or belief.

All of us have made some solid decisions in life based on experiences we have had. Many of those decisions were positive, and many are negative, but that begs the question, “How do I know if my decision was a positive one or a negative one?” And it would seem that all of us would love a formula to have our “Best Life Now” because we want to be known for someone who makes good decisions.

Without putting decisions in the framework of morality, what I have to say from here on out will be of no value. So I begin my discussion on decision-making from the belief that there is such a thing as a moral law, that in order to have a moral law there is a Moral Law Giver, and that Moral Law Giver is God as revealed in the scriptures of the Holy Bible. I have to start here because, all logic associated with decision-making finds its basis in how we view our life’s value, or the value of our neighbor, and the purpose of life itself. Value and purpose cannot be determined by science, mathematics, or chance. When I make the decision to trust someone or not to, I cannot tell you why I “ought to” or “shouldn’t” without a moral compass that directs those decisions, and all of us feel there are things we “should” do and things we “shouldn’t.”

Morality has been seen as a code of conduct that one adheres to in order to please God, but I want to add to that thought that Morality is not just a code of ethics or beliefs, it is also an invitation into something greater. For example, when God says “Thou Shall Not Steal”, He is not just drawing a line that you dare not cross, He is also inviting you into a life of self-control, a life of care and protection of another, and the peace that accompanies a life that is not haunted by the fear of robbery. Everyone longs to live in a neighborhood where they don’t have to lock their door at night, and where everyone watches out for their neighbor. Isn’t that true? If it isn’t, we would see many more vacation packages offered for inner-city vacations. “Thou shall not steal” opens up opportunity for that kind of life.

When God says “Do not commit adultery”, He is inviting you into a lifestyle of cultivating and nurturing the relationships you currently possess, while protecting you and your family from the consequences of broken vows and insatiable lust. Who doesn’t dream of a family where parents commit to one another in love and nurture?

As I referred to one of my childhood vows in the previous post, that I would never trust a man, I explained that this was a decision I made as a child. That decision was not necessarily a moral decision at the time. It was a self-preserving decision that is characteristic of someone whose trust has been violated. The decision wasn’t wrong until….Until, because of that decision, I decided to cut men down and cut them off before they had a chance to get to know me. When I made it my art to craft sarcasm and quick wit that would cut my opponents off at the knees, that is when God began to deal with my heart. At this point where my decision to protect myself negated the value of others (in particular, men), my conscience became pricked.

Here is the beautiful thing about God. He has invited me and you into a relationship with Him which means He speaks to us on our level, right where we are. When God began dealing with my heart on my vow to never trust, He didn’t say, “Cate, knock it off, you idiot!!” No, instead, He dealt with my fear. You know– the motivation behind my dis-trust? He asked me to trust Him. Scriptures like “God is not a man that He would lie” as well as others about Him being a good Father, and one who never leaves of forsakes me, became the thoughts He asked me to meditate on. These scriptures brought up huge questions in me, and since God is a relational God, He allowed me to ask my questions, and believe me I had many. Then came the invitation: “Cate, I want you to lay your sarcasm down, and every time you are tempted to defend yourself by cutting someone off with your words, I want you to stop, bite your tongue, and invite me into the scenario. I want you to trust ME.”

This is where our vows and values are tested to see whether or not they should be the directors of our path. Right here where we choose between trusting ourselves, or accepting God’s invitation to trust Him. If by my internal vows I have de-valued another or myself, or if I have neglected God or have to ignore Him to accomplish my goals, then I am choosing wrongly, and God will intervene in my heart through my conscience.

Let me give examples of other vows we make that God may challenge us on. “I will always speak my mind.” Although this decision can be very positive for someone who rarely shares how they really feel, this vow can also serve as a bulldozer that destroys relationships if not moderated. If you pride yourself on always saying exactly what you are thinking, there is a good chance you have struggling relationships if not broken ones. Here is where the value question comes into play. Since God values you and your neighbor, He will invite you to lay down your reputation in order to enter into a life of understanding and forgiveness. He will invite you into real relationships with people where there is give and take, compromise, and encouragement. This will include telling the truth, and hearing the truth, as well as biting your tongue.

How about “I will never move to another state.” For those of you who grew up as military kids, or in families that bounced around a lot, this is a common vow that is made. And the vow itself is not wrong until….Until your husband or wife gets that promotion they worked so hard for, but the new employment means a move. Or when your income dries up where you live, and your best means of making a living again require uprooting and changing. Now your vow comes into question, and your value system up for scrutiny.

In order for any one of us to change a direction in our lives, we have to let go of our vows and grab something else–Something solid, something trustworthy. Many have said that faith is believing something there is no evidence for, but I would argue that faith is the placeholder for what we cannot see but that we are certain will buoy us up. God asks us for that kind of faith in Him. Faith to accept His invitation into a life we maybe haven’t “seen”, but we are certain exists because He exists and in Him there is all power, potential, and opportunity. If he asks me to let go of a past vow, it is only because He has something better that will take its place. That “better” thing will only be realized in my relationship with Him, for through Him, I relate to the rest of the world.

Through God, I also honor vows. Vows of faithfulness, fidelity, friendship, and loyalty can only be carried out with the power of God at work in us. When we want to throw in the towel because we just can’t “see” the end result, God gives us strength to finish what we started, and opens up the invitation again into the life he intends for us. Whether you are making vows with God in the center, or letting go of ones He has not originated, you can trust that He, the Moral Law Giver, is also a Good Father, and the author of your script if you dare to read it!

tough decisions

Pack Your Yellow Lenses

I was driving last weekend through a blizzard.  I hate blizzards.

I don’t like not being able to see clearly where I am going.  I panic when the boundaries are obscured and I cannot ascertain if it is a 60 foot drop to my right, or a wide shoulder where I can pull over.  I freak out at the thought that I cannot see the car just a few feet in front of me, and wonder how long it will be until I am hit from behind.

There is no stopping in a blizzard.  To stop in my tracks would make me an object to be smashed by the traffic behind me that is in the same situation I am in.  Somehow I have to continue on.

This happened to me a few years ago, as I recall in early spring.  I was driving a van full of students from the local Bible school from Homer to Anchorage.  Jamin was also driving a van of students and was leading the way in front of me.  We were in the mountain pass, making our descent back to sea level and the snow was flying.  It was so thick, falling so fast, and swirling in the wind.  It didn’t take long for the tail lights on Jamin’s van to disappear and the road begin to look like one never-ending piece of whiteness. The lighting was diffused by the amount of snow flakes in the sky and I could no longer differentiate between the edges of the road or the lanes they represented.

I called Jamin on his cell phone to see if he really was ahead of me.  He assured me he was and encouraged me to keep going forward.  I couldn’t find his tail lights.  I couldn’t even see his tracks in the snow.  I was scared.

Then I remembered something…..a conversation from years ago when I asked Jamin about his snowboarding goggles.  Why were they tinted yellow?  His response to me was that the yellow tint helps to clarify the light and shadows in a low-light situation.  With them on, Jamin would be able to see more clearly, the path to travel in the snow on his board.

Immediately I began to ask the people in my van if any of them had a pair of sunglasses with them with a yellow tint.  And amazingly enough, Sarah, sitting beside me said that she did and pulled a pair of glasses out of her bag for me to wear.

I can’t explain what happened next in words, but something settled over me as I placed those glasses on my face.  It was like snow melting to spring, or like my cold hands warmed by a fire.  My eyes were suddenly able to see what they couldn’t discern moments earlier.  I could see shadow and light.  I could discern tracks in the snow ahead of me.  I could find my way.

Sometimes life isn’t any different from the blinded frenzy of a blizzard.  The way is obscure, the things I thought I knew become clouded, and the One I trusted to lead me is hidden from view.  So what do I do then?

I don’t know all the answers.  I’m still asking several myself, so I’ll just tell you a few that I have learned.

Pray.  The Holy Spirit has a way of settling over a frenzied heart in a way that removes the haze and distinguishes light from shadow.  His peace becomes a guard for my mind as well as my emotions.

Philippians 4:6-7

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The second and third lessons are these:

Colossians 3:15

 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Italics mine)

I must allow the peace of Christ to rule my heart.  I have to dethrone worry and fear and give the throne back to Christ.  This is an act of my will that God meets with His promise.

Thankfulness, gratitude, appreciation, awe and wonder of God’s goodness, all become lenses, and if I put them on, they will remind me that my Shepherd is leading me, and creating my path through the storm.  I must remember what He has done in my past to trust Him with my future.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson – 

So, this past weekend as I wound my way through blurred and hazy roads, it was with a pair of sunglasses on my face.  I try to never leave home without them.  And as I travel this crazy road of life full of storms and fog, I endeavor to navigate my way through prayer and thankfulness, trusting that He will make my path straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart 

   and lean not on your own understanding; 
6 in all your ways submit to him, 
   and he will make your paths straight.

If you have lost your yellow lenses, I will loan you some of mine.