This is my offering...

Not the 10% tithe for the offering plate on Sunday.  Not the extras I give to overseas missions so that the world might hear of Christ.  Not the money I'd willingly share to bring another orphan home.  Not even the "first fruits" or the unblemished sacrifices.

It's all those things, but so much more!  MY LIFE is my offering!  

Every single breath; every thought taken captive; every whisper of prayer; every death to self; every service in His name; every kind word spoken; every ounce of self-will submitted to God's will; every step of faith; every gift to the "least of these"- to the needy and the broken; every part of me poured out onto the alter of God....  my offering!

I have only one life to live ~  I can live it for me, or I can live it as an offering to Him!

I've been reading through the book of Leviticus lately and am struck by the endless offerings required by God from His people.  It all seems grueling and tedious...  Why, Lord, do you give to your people, only to ask for it back in the form of endless offerings?  Why not keep the best for yourself and give us the leftovers to start with?  And since it's all yours anyway, why demand anything back from us?  Our hands will surely make a mess of it, or worse yet, fall to the temptation to keep it all for ourselves in the end...    

I've had enough Sunday School lessons and sermons to know the obvious answer...  It is to keep us ever mindful of our dependance on God for all things.  To respond with a grateful heart.  To keep Him first in our hearts and to not allow ourselves to become "polluted by the world" (James 1:27b)  But today, as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes, I saw it!!!!  Every single gift that flows from God's hands into my life is intended to be returned to Him as MY offering...

I have a choice to make...  I can squander His gifts.  I can spend His gifts on myself.  I can abuse them and discard them.  Or I can make them the "investment" of my life and return them to Him as a multiplied, beautiful offering.  And suddenly this truth shines so brightly I can hardly miss it.... This was His intention all along!

He gave me life to glorify Him.  Period.  That means that every single gift given to these human hands is meant to be returned to Him for His glory.  I have no offering, no ability to glorify Him without His first giving.  I've been living with myself long enough to know that anything produced in my own strength is nowhere near the glory He deserves.  He said it plainly in His Word...  "Without me you can do nothing!"

My offering is dependent on His gift.  Maybe that's why He said that "to those whom much has been given, much is required!"  The more He gives to faithful hands, the greater the return for His glory.  I want to be found trustworthy with His gifts, so that He might entrust me with more and more.  Then I pray for the strength to multiply gift upon gift for His Kingdom.

Some days I feel too full, at the end of my rope, "done", weary...  I feel too weak to present an offering to God.  I've already given,... thanks!  I'd honestly like the gifts to keep flowing, but I'm at the bottom of the barrel for anything to give back.   What an embarassing admittion in light of all He's given!

Deep inside I want MORE!  Remember that "skidding into heaven completely empty" thing I was talking about recently?  That's what I really want!  Yes ~ a life dedicated to taking everything He gives, using it for His glory, and returning it as a sweet offering that is pleasing in His sight.  Because, when my days are through, I can take absolutely nothing with me.  I will stand before Him and my life will be judged in proportion to the gifts I was given.  I won't stand next to Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor, or even Doug McCary, and be forced to give an account for what they did with God's gifts. God will hold me solely accountable for what I did with what He gave. Period.

I'm certain this is why Jesus commended the poor widow who gave a pittance compared to the religious leaders around her.  He said that she gave all she had, while the others gave out of their abundance... keeping most for themselves and sacrificing little.  There it is!!!  And it's been there all along!  God wants all of me!  Not 10%, not a little extra, or a little more... but ALL of me!

I have a pet peeve about something, and I think this would be the perfect place to share it!  I have this "thing" for returning possessions loaned to me back to their owners in better condition than when I received them...   It's my way of showing a grateful heart for their generosity.  If you share something with me that has the least bit of dirt, spot, or wrinkle - I will return it to you sparkling clean and in better condition than you saw it last.  In so doing, I am saying "thank you"!

I have heard too many stories of missionaries or ministers who have the all-time worst reputation for not doing this, and the generous gift givers feel used and unappreciated!  So I've become hyper-vigilant to never let this be the case with me!  I will clean a borrowed condo from top to bottom and vacuum my way out the door, so that the owner will return to my pleasant surprise!  I've even spent hours with my children on our knees, spot cleaning dirty carpet stains that had been left there long before we arrived as a "poor woman's" way to say thanks!

I am suddenly aware of my need to treat God's gifts in the same way!  Wouldn't it be a beautiful way to say thanks to the God who gave it all?  To receive a gift from His hands, and say..."Lord, I will return this as a sacrifice and an offering to you!!!"  I will pour my heart out to return His gifts well loved, well cared for, and multiplied as a good steward...

The gift of my husband ~ loved, respected, supported, cared for, encouraged offering.

The gift of my home ~ warm and inviting, a place of rest, a place of love, open to friends and strangers alike, a gift to be shared offering.

Our money ~ held loosely, spent wisely, shared freely, invested in eternity offering.

The gift of friendship ~ Christ honoring, encouraging, exhorting to godliness, sweet laughter offering.

The children given to me through birth ~ dedicated to the Lord, loved, trained in righteousness, loved, disciplined in godliness, loved, taught the Word, loved, modeled a deep love for Jesus offering.

And what a beautiful picture when applied to the broken children He has entrusted into my care ~ to love them as the precious treasures they are and to lead them to Jesus.  I have found profound joy in pouring myself into these beautiful gifts from my gracious God!  They have been a sweet sacrifice offering.

The gift of "time" ~ spent on pursuing Christ in all things, honoring the Lord in all I do, redeeming every moment for His glory offering.

This blog and my love for "words" ~ centered on Christ and glorifying to Him. Always. offering.

Yes, even the gifts of heartbreak and pain ~ a chance to praise Him and know Him in ways I didn't know were possible.  To choose joy in the midst of pain because HE is my reward offering.

"My life is my offering to you, Lord.  I willingly invite struggle; I invite cost; I invite less of me; I invite more of You!  I will take the gifts most do not desire, Lord, so that I might have the opportunity to pour myself out as an offering to Your glory!!!!  I ask for more of Your good gifts, that I might return them as an offering to YOU!"

Romans 12:1 ~ "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God..."

This is my offering....

So long Self...

Frankly... I'm tired of you!  There's just not room for two of us here, so you're gonna have to move!  You are a terrible influence on me anyway, and it's time you go!  You bring very temporary pleasures that do nothing for me beyond the here and now...  I'm tired of feeding you, defending you, and protecting your comforts at all costs.  I'm tired of your hang-ups and fears.  You're holding me back from doing what I really want to do with my life.  You consume my time, my energy, and my resources.  Worst of all, I've missed out on untold blessings and immeasurable joy on account of you!   I've finally realized that life isn't about you anymore!  I should have broken things off long before now, but it took this long to see that there's Someone far better for me out there!  I just finally figured out that there's simply not room for Jesus and "self" in the same heart!   So long Self! 

I've been called a lot of things since bringing home a critically ill child from China ~ Crazy - Brave - Amazing - A Saint - A Hero.  I'd like to take each and every well-meant compliment and store them up for a rainy day when I'm feeling far from brave, amazing, saintly, or heroic!  I like drinking in nice compliments like that, but I am far too aware of who I am deep inside the recesses of my heart to think that, apart from the grace of God, and the Spirit of Christ IN me, anything worthwhile could possibly come from ME!  There is a raging battle in my heart on a daily basis between the me who longs for comfort, ease, and fame and the me who longs to bring glory to the God who is most deserving of it!

I've gotten my feet wet on death to self in months and years past... but a new awakening has rocked me to the core and made me take a deeper look inside...  It would be easy for me to pat myself on the back and celebrate the victories against "self" I've managed to pull off in the past few years.  Maybe it's someone else's turn to fight!  Haven't I done my share already?  I have a few feathers in my hat and feel pretty content with that.  Besides... the American dream is calling my name again.  You know-  "self" sufficiency,  work hard and profit "self",  put in your time so that you can retire to comfort and ease on a tropical island alone with your hubby.  But the American dream I was raised on has little to do with the life Jesus calls me to!  In fact, the worldly "freedoms" this country offers me to pursue life and happiness in my own strength, does more to lead to bondage than any earthly leader could impose upon its' prisoners.  A life of freedom to pursue "self", is a life of misery indeed!  I don't think that patriotism to the country I love is in any way wrong, but it has suddenly occurred to me that the religious freedoms our forefathers fought for have little to do with my walk with Christ or the life He has called me to live in dying to self!

Don't get me wrong...I don't want to deny self for the sake of misery!  Who would?  But I know that pure JOY awaits the soul that denies it's flesh of temporary pleasures, so that it might enjoy eternal ones forevermore.  And suddenly the meaning behind the words of Jesus make perfect sense...  "Whoever loses his life for my sake, shall find it!"  I've found life- "real" life- in the most unexpected places and discovered that the very things I've fought against are the things that bring the greatest possible joy!

For many years I've read about heroes from the past that I longed to immulate.  People like Hudson Taylor,  George Mueller, Amy Carmichael, and Jim Elliot.  They had obviously learned the absolute JOY of death to "self" and they brought immeasurable glory to the name of Christ.  But they seem far away and long removed from the world I live in today.  I'm a stay at home mom- a homemaker- the wife of a minister...  How am I to do great things for the Kingdom of God?  Those things were reserved for a select few....

But lately I've met some modern day heroes, and I've begun to wonder what makes them so different from me?  John Monger- a Bhutanese believer- exiled and tortured for his faith.  Now a precious friend.  Does he possess something I don't that enables him to glorify Jesus through a simple life much like my own?  Then there are the heroes in the adoption community that I have begun to meet via blogs, Facebook, phone calls, and surprise meetings.  I always thought that these godly women must possess some spiritual quality that obviously alludes me.  Something special that enables them to do the beautiful, redemptive things they have done to glorify the Lord.

And yet God quietly reminds me that they do not possess anything that I do not possess in Jesus.  Death to "self" doesn't somehow come easier to a chosen few.  They must fight the same battle of flesh and desire for comfort that I do!!!  Death to self is no easier for them then it is for me or for you!!!  I didn't ask them, but I'm betting if I did, they'd tell me-  They get weary.... they feel spent...  done... overwhelmed... selfish... they long for comfort and ease just like I do!  There is no exception to the rule within the human race.  The Bible says it in so many ways I couldn't possibly list them all here...  Yes, even the likes of Moses, Elijah, Peter, John, and Paul admitted to the same weakness of flesh that plagues me...  I marvel when I see the things God did through these mighty men.  They way God called Moses His friend.  And the way He worked so miraculously in response to the prayers of Elijah.  And how He literally changed the world through common, ordinary men like the disciples and a once persecutor of Christians.  I start to feel small and insignificant.  I forget that the God of those men is the same God I serve today.  I guess that's why I simply love the verse of scripture in James 5 that encourages us to pray by saying....  "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years."     James, the brother of Jesus, felt that his listeners needed to be reminded that the God of the universe had not changed, nor had man's ability to connect with Him if they earnestly sought Him.  If they needed that reminder just years after walking with Christ in the flesh, how much more do I need it today?

I guess that means that the teachings of Christ for the lives of His followers are still relevant today too!  But in my selfish state and American mindset, I think I've begun to relegate His commands to a select few!  Jesus called us to a life of suffering and hardship... to a life led by HIM, not mySELF!  I've been spending a lot of time rethinking my secret hopes that things like suffering and hardship were for someone else.... anyone else, as long as it didn't include ME!

Most of us have suffering and hardship forced upon us at different times in our lives.  Maybe it's an unexpected diagnosis or a child born less than "perfect", a family member in dire straights, or a natural disaster has stolen all our possessions without warning.  We can choose the way we respond to those circumstances...  Will we choose joy or will we do the opposite and live life in misery?  I want to respond with JOY.  I think that when I do, it reveals the depths of my heart and where I place my hope.  Sadly, though, my natural inclination is to hunker down and wait for brighter days (with some whining and complaining, of course) that might usher in seasons of happiness.

But Jesus took it a step further when He told His disciples that if they wanted to follow Him, they had to "take up their cross daily" and follow Him.  Could he possibly mean that we are to CHOOSE to carry pain... choose to suffer to follow Him?  To "take up my cross" would mean absolute death to myself!  And worst of all, He didn't limit this command to a select few occasions in my life from which I could return to self gratification and comfortable living, but to a DAILY dying!  Before you beat yourself up like I have myself, remember this...To be a disciple is to be a "learner".   Learners are not professionals yet.  But they are on their way to their goal of being like their leader....  Jesus took up His cross willingly; by choice!  At any moment, He could have thrown it down and decided the pain wasn't worth it.  But He willingly endured it for our sake.

How often do I willingly choose a road of suffering for the sake of another?  For that matter,  how often do I willingly choose the difficult over the easy so that someone might find life or have life more abundantly?  God has been invading the recesses of my heart lately and pointing out areas that need attention.  I've discovered some difficult truths about myself that are quite unflattering.    I like comfort!  And while I've proven a few times in my life that I am willing to lay down that comfort to follow Jesus, I find myself constantly looking for a way back to it again.  "How much time will this take?", "What will this cost me?",  "What will this cost my kids?" (cause you know-  their comfort and happiness is pretty important to me too!)  "How will this benefit me?",  "How many more years will this cost until I can return to my comfort, my pleasure, my time....."  Call it ugly, because it is!  But even with the greatest accomplishments for the Lord in days past, I asked each and every ugly question listed here, each and every time!  

I may be a slow learner, but I'm finding that life seems really short!  Too short to waste away on ME!  Why should I wait until a "terminal" sticker is placed on my medical record to start really living for Christ?  I was "terminal" at the moment of my birth and so were you!  I personally believe that Jesus is coming back soon, and the thought of that gives me a sense of urgency that I wish I had every single day.  Whether or not He returns in my lifetime, though, THIS is the only time I have to redeem for Him!  Each day a precious gift to be given back for His glory.  I have a choice to make.  Will I continue to live for "self", or will I say "so long" to self and discover what it means to live for something so much bigger?  I'm ready to take hold of the grace that will enable me to do everything as onto Christ and start living like the Godly hero I so long to be!  What will that look like for me?  What would it look like for you?  I honestly don't know...  But Jesus calls me to take up my cross and follow Him.  Only He knows where we're headed!  My job is to humbly follow and imitate Him as I go.

There's a saying that I've loved since it first grabbed my attention a few years ago... "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming --Wow!  What a ride!!"

I agree with the sentiment, but it needs some spiritual tweaking.  Here's my new spin on it...  "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out for the cause of Christ, poured out, completely emptied of "self" for His glory, and declaring -- It was all for you, Jesus!"  Now... THAT'S more like it!!!!

That's your cue, Self!  Time to get packin'!  So long Self....


I just HAVE to share something with you here, as I watch the shadow of myself fade into the distance...  I am so excited about the ways God can use a person who is walking away from a life of self-love to pursue His love...  Just look what He can do!!!