If You Love Me, Obey Me

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Sam. 15:22b (NIV)

I can tell you what the old me thought of that bit of dialogue between the prophet Samuel and King Saul. You’ve got to be kidding, Sam. God prefers simple obedience? Wait till He hears what I’m gonna do for Him!

I of course took the immediate meaning of the phrase out of context. To me, to obey anyone meant to give in, give up or give out, none of which I have ever been prone to do gracefully.  So what does it mean to say obedience is better than sacrifice?  In my winner-take-all playbook, “to obey” was already a huge sacrifice. How, therefore could it be better than a well-prepared, juicy, choice cut of … oh, wait a minute. Maybe I do have an idea why God would prefer the obedience of our actions to anything we can cook up to distract Him.

My parents had gotten a well-deserved weekend away from their kids. I was about eight, my sister five and my brother a newborn and I honestly don’t remember who they suckered into coming to our house to care for us that weekend. It wasn’t our regular babysitter; I couldn’t have gotten away with it if he’d been there.

Whoever it was, they didn’t know that the most of the trees in our Florida subdivision lot were soft woods. Many were fruit trees. My father, a transplant himself from the majestic forests of Oregon, called the laurels overgrown bushes.  And he also called them absolutely off limits for climbing. He maintained that we had a swing set, a sturdy elm and each other to climb on.  Sixty pounds of trunk shimmying tomboy did not bode well for the health of the kumquat tree. He had made that clear to me but it was never mentioned to the babysitter. Certainly not by me.

Not only did I climb the kumquat tree, the orange trees, the grapefruit trees and the laurels repeatedly throughout the two days our parents were gone, I attempted to build a fort in the limbs of the almost-majestic cedar in the front yard. A painful experience since the needles were sharp and the bark rough and also my carpentry skills weren’t up to the task. And I fell. Hard enough to hurt but not hard enough to tell the babysitter.

Back to obedience. Samuel told Saul obedience was better. Better for whom? It would have been better for Saul. God doesn’t ask us to do things just to make Himself feel good. Does he ask for a tithe because He needs your money? No, he wants your heart and your heart in the hand of God is better for you. Did he want Saul’s complete obedience in the matter before him because he wanted a bunch of  His enemies to die? No, God will accomplish his purposes–here it was to purge the land of a people committing heinous crimes–He wanted Saul to be obedient for the sake of Saul’s own good.

Here’s what happened in our house in 1963, and how I learned that obedience would have been much more acceptable that any sacrifice.  Mom and Dad came home to a good report from the babysitter, who still had no clue that my tree climbing was a full frontal school girl rebellion carried out under her nose for two days. After the sitter left, we settled in for the ritual Walt Disney Theater Sunday night show, and, after a rapt half hour in front of the television, all my little muscles, tendons and ligaments refused to move. I was so sore I could barely move. As Mom massaged my thighs, calves and biceps, I could not tell a lie.  No, I had not chopped down the cherry tree, but I had surely climbed the kumquat tree, as well as all its citrus cousins. As I experienced my first post-workout soreness Daddy told me the real reason he hadn’t wanted us in those trees. Their limbs couldn’t safely support us; Mom couldn’t climb up after us to help us for the same reason; the dumb laurels could have actually toppled over from our weight, throwing us into the street. And yes, the trees themselves were property that should be respected, but that was secondary.

As was God’s desire to rid the earth of the Amalekites. Without Saul’s compliance to the letter of God’s command to him, their contemptible practices went on for centuries after Saul’s reign. But that was secondary. God loved Saul and wanted his obedience. More than the sweetest fragrance of sacrifice, more than his explanations and excuses for why he didn’t do God’s will, God just wanted Saul’s obedience. And ours. For our own good.

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Pray for the Overconfident

“…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”

Early Monday AM–Our road has a dry forge. Where Retherford Road crosses Hanna’s Creek, a flat span of concrete crosses over with no side barriers.  This crossing is not elevated, so any time the creek runs over its banks it gushes across the concrete as well.   The overflow happens several times per year and in the spring of 2011, it’s just our little portion of the violent mid-Western weather system that has taken lives and so wrecked so much property.

The best way to go to the county seat in Liberty is to turn right at the end of  my drive and follow the road over the creek. Knowing it’s flooded, I turned left today,  settling for the  longer way into town.  It’s just simple common sense not to risk driving through such a potentially treacherous waterway.

And yet I felt the pull.  It’s shorter.  It’s quicker.  I’ve got tons of errands and to do.  Really, I could do it.

For one thing, I drive a large four-wheel drive truck.  (Don’t judge me.  I live in the country.) The truck is high enough that the cab could clear the water and heavy enough to maintain the traction.  If the water were much deeper than six inches I couldn’t do it.  In a car I couldn’t do it.  Common sense says not to do it. What is it in me that wants to do it anyway?

Contrary to my nature, I took the longer and safer route. You can put it down to maturity but I actually think I was “…lead not into temptation but delivered from evil.”  I prayed for that this morning and even lingered on the phrase, wondering what in my lovely world could be evil enough for me to ward off with prayer.  Maybe it was the creek. More likely it is the pride that makes me think the “Road Closed ” sign doesn’t apply to me.

Early Monday PM–In the interests of honest reporting I drove down to the creek after lunch.  I had talked to my engineering consultant (a.k.a. husband) and he agreed that I could make the six-inch depth I had described. But our conversation begged the question: Was it only six inches deep or deeper?

What follows is my gallery. You’ll see my rain boot swished with muddy water up to an easy six inches. I had only waded out as far as the current allowed me to stay on my feet. Beyond that I’d venture to say the water was closer to a foot deep as it passed over the little forge.

So in the morning, when I was simply ruminating over God’s possible protection from my own foolishness, I didn’t have a clue. My truck cannot make that forge with that much water and current.  My insurer probably wouldn’t cover that much stupid.  I never really know how far I am tucked under His mighty wing. But I know I’ll continue to pray that prayer.

Pray for those who think they are safer than they are.

Dear God,

Thank you very much for allowing me to write my book, “View from the Rollercoaster.” As you know, it comes from a life filled with many ups and downs, highs and lows, maniacal and depressed seasons in my life. At least it has not been a boring life.

Now, would you mind very much if I could not be bipolar anymore? I was just thinking how much easier it would be if I could have logical responses to life events. That’s my new definition of “not bipolar.” For instance, God, if the sun is shining and my husband wants to take a ride along the winding roads and shining lakes of Union County, could I feel joy? The Bible says to rejoice always, and I can’t even joice once, no less rejoice.

I know many other people who suffer with chronic illnesses. Lord, would you heal them, too? You know who I mean. And people who grieve, too, and those who take care of us all, would you comfort them? Well, thank you. I’m pretty sure when I get up tomorrow morning I’ll be a Real Boy, just like Pinnochio, without puppet strings or a wooden heart.

Love always,

Tracy

Pray for the Overconfident

Pray for the Overconfident

“…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”

Early Monday AM–Our road has a dry forge. Where Retherford Road crosses Hanna’s Creek, a flat span of concrete crosses over with no side barriers.  This crossing is not elevated, so any time the creek runs over its banks it gushes across the concrete as well.   The overflow happens several times per year and in the spring of 2011, it’s just our little portion of the violent mid-Western weather system that has taken lives and so wrecked so much property.

The best way to go to the county seat in Liberty is to turn right at the end of  my drive and follow the road over the creek. Knowing it’s flooded, I turned left today,  settling for the  longer way into town.  It’s just simple common sense not to risk driving through such a potentially treacherous waterway.

And yet I felt the pull.  It’s shorter.  It’s quicker.  I’ve got tons of errands and to do.  Really, I could do it.

For one thing, I drive a large four-wheel drive truck.  (Don’t judge me.  I live in the country.) The truck is high enough that the cab could clear the water and heavy enough to maintain the traction.  If the water were much deeper than six inches I couldn’t do it.  In a car I couldn’t do it.  Common sense says not to do it. What is it in me that wants to do it anyway?

Contrary to my nature, I took the longer and safer route. You can put it down to maturity but I actually think I was “…lead not into temptation but delivered from evil.”  I prayed for that this morning and even lingered on the phrase, wondering what in my lovely world could be evil enough for me to ward off with prayer.  Maybe it was the creek. More likely it is the pride that makes me think the “Road Closed ” sign doesn’t apply to me.

Early Monday PM–In the interests of honest reporting I drove down to the creek after lunch.  I had talked to my engineering consultant (a.k.a. husband) and he agreed that I could make the six-inch depth I had described. But our conversation begged the question: Was it only six inches deep or deeper?

What follows is my gallery. You’ll see my rain boot swished with muddy water up to an easy six inches. I had only waded out as far as the current allowed me to stay on my feet. Beyond that I’d venture to say the water was closer to a foot deep as it passed over the little forge.

So in the morning, when I was simply ruminating over God’s possible protection from my own foolishness, I didn’t have a clue. My truck cannot make that forge with that much water and current.  My insurer probably wouldn’t cover that much stupid.  I never really know how far I am tucked under His mighty wing. But I know I’ll continue to pray that prayer.

Pray for those who think they are safer than they are.

You didn't read it here first

You’ve read God’s love in every breath of summer’s fragrance and His grace in the face of every saint.  His love is so perfect and his grace so amazing that I can only come to the conclusion that He is the essence of life. You certainly didn’t read it here first but it is important that you read it here now. Why?

In my book, View from the Rollercoaster, I published the columns and essays of a writer living in the chemical tornado of bipolar depression.  I categorize it as humor.  The book is done and nearing publication and the illness, well, it is with me as much today as ever. A thorn in my side, but no real challenge to my faith.  And as much as I love my little book, I love Jesus way, way more.

You didn’t read about my obituary here first, either.  I gave my life and writing to His hands and wrote about it in another wordpress blog, viewfromtherollercoaster.  I’ll continue to blog from there about the things I hope that will whack or wiggle your sense of humor.  Small town stuff, gentle stuff, pretty stuff.  Grandchild stuff and in-law stuff.

But here, the Lady in the Pew will listen to the pastor, pray, read all she can get her hands on, listen to the songs on the subject, pray, bounce it off a prayer partner, pray and finally, present a series of: (TA-DA!) Devotions for Divas.

Stay tuned.