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Friday, September 1, 2017

Good Morning Lesson



As I sat in the dark quiet morning reading the verses in my devotional booklet, I had a hard time focusing. The Bible passage of the day was a tough one, or maybe my brain was still asleep. Either way, I couldn’t capture the meaning behind the words and had to read them several times. It’s rare that I would spend so much time going over a difficult section like this; these few minutes of the day are just meant to be a quick quiet wake-up time, not in-depth Bible research hour. Yet I persisted in trying to figure it out.

Opening my Bible and reading the verses a fourth time, thinking a different context and translation would help, the meaning of the words finally made sense to me. I realized why I had such a hard time understanding. Sometimes what God has to say hits so close to home that the words lose their overall meaning. It’s like looking at yourself in a close-up mirror and only seeing details that you are unused to seeing from that point of view, unsure of where the focus lies in the whole of your face.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20

First of all, I don’t like reading about the “wrath of God.” The peace lover within me wants nothing more than to believe that I haven’t done anything to warrant experiencing the wrath of anyone, and for sure not God. I like to think that I step carefully through life, thanking God for my many blessings, trying not to offend or upset and trying to love others as Jesus loves me, and enjoying the love of others in return. I like to think that everything I do is beyond the pulsing radar of God’s wrath.

The reality is that I plod unawares many days, stepping on feet and tripping over the sensibilities of others as I make my own way that serves my own desires, God-free and spotlight on me.

I have fooled myself into thinking that the wrath of God is for somebody else, when God specifically tells us that it is revealed against the “godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”. Even though we all want to believe that we aren’t doing anything wrong, ever, we all have that wickedness in us, don’t we?

We forget that sin is sin is sin, and that all sin is wickedness to God, who is all good and cannot be in the same room as sin. We fool ourselves into thinking that sin is stuff like murder and adultery, and if we haven’t done those things, we are sinless. We forget that we are sinful. We overlook what God has taught us. We skim over the fact that he shows us who he is by his work in our lives and in the world. We forget that he shows us his power in the glory of creation. We lose focus on who he is; instead, we focus on what he has given us and the beauty of creation.

Is there a smudge on that mirror, or is that part of my face?

It’s a fine distinction, to note that we focus on the blessing instead of the one bestowing the blessing. How can that be wrong, especially if we do our due diligence and thank God for what he’s done for us? But the distinction is still there.

We all have God within us – he created us, after all. We all have a natural sense of right and wrong. Yet we go against it daily, in ways that we might not even consider wrong or immoral or worthy of wrath. It doesn’t mean we are awful people according to the world, but it does mean that we are not God. I believe it also means that we need God to help us.

Sometimes I don’t want help. I think: I’m good, I’ve got this, just leave me to it. But the fact is I do need help, with nearly everything. I am not perfect; I cannot do it all. I may try, but eventually everything I have built all by myself comes crumbling down. I need others and I need higher spiritual guidance. Admitting this is humbling and uncomfortable. It’s no wonder that this passage, and the meaning behind the words, were so difficult for me to understand right away in the morning. There’s no good time of day to realize that you are a sinner who needs to ask for forgiveness and do better.

But there’s also no better time to realize it. I’m glad that God loves us all enough to show us where we stand with him, and also for the opportunity to live better than we did yesterday.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Keeping The Whirlwind Quiet


I haven’t written anything in a while – just this morning I was counting the months since I published my last regular blog post, which is silly to say because my blog hasn't had a regular publishing schedule for some time. I already wrote a blog post this year about taking time off from writing. That time it was one month since I had written last. This time it has been about four months.

Four. Four months of life, of hurts and joys, of stuff like weddings and vacations and mission trips and middle school graduation and good conversations and eating and drinking and hanging out with friends and family and appointments and sports practices and games and tournaments and cleaning the house and folding laundry and buying groceries and toilet paper and all that regular jazz that everybody does but isn’t really worth mentioning except to the people that know you best.

Four months is a long time, a suitcase full of experiences. It’s also a blink, a whisper that you think you heard but aren’t sure.

It’s enough time to wonder if you have it in you to share what’s been happening. So much has happened, and yet nothing extraordinary really has.

I have kept myself, my family, my life off the blog during this time for various reasons, the biggest of which is that life keeps changing and rolling so fast that I don’t have time to catch everyone up. Kids are growing and thus more their own selves and less mine, and family life has become more precious than ever. Time is flying by and I haven’t taken the time to share any of it for four months, and it has become harder to start up again.

I am by nature a pretty guarded person. I don’t share easily, don’t make friends quickly, don’t ask questions or reveal much. I have been vulnerable before, and have come away embarrassed, hurt, and full of regret after a tell-all session that replays in my head until well after it I think it should. I advise everyone – kids, friends – that “not everyone thinks about you as much as you think about you” – and have yet to fully adopt this advice. It gets worse when I’m out of the practice of sharing.

I feel like many of us are like this. Don’t we sort of guard our hearts and what we really think from others, to keep and preserve that which is most easily injured? The more time that passes, the harder it is to open up again. This extends into every area of life, every relationship. It’s unhealthy to keep things bottled up. I feel this acutely, especially during this time of radio (blog) silence.

In these few months I have been reminded regularly how wonderful a Counselor we have in Jesus. When life gets too much, too fast, too extra, I have come to him with it all: my sorrows and fears, worries and complaints – and he soothes my soul.

Perhaps the best thing worth mentioning about the past four months is that Jesus has been there for me – and I have really clung to him. With Jesus, I don’t have to guard my heart or what I think. He knows my life and who I am, and there is nothing more comforting than to know that I am known and loved throughout this whirlwind of time. When I am busy doing and running and living, but keeping it all inside, he is watching and helping and guiding. He is my refuge, and his example led me to share this with all of you.

Dear God,
Your presence in my life is miraculous, evident, and welcomed.
Help me to seek you first during times of busy-ness, quietness and uncertainty;
ease my mind of the troubles of the day.
Thank you, Amen.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Meditate



I’ll be the first one to admit that I definitely do not meditate on God’s law day and night. I’m more preoccupied with things like: Did I take the chicken out of the fridge to thaw? We are out of paper towels again! Those kids better get out of bed! and Is it my turn to carpool today?

These are small things, which, if you’ve been paying attention at all, make up a life. Things that, not long ago, I bemoaned as obstructions that kept my life from being what I thought it should be. I was frustrated that these things are all-consuming and allow no room for anything else. I lamented that I would never be anything other than a mother if all I can manage doing is managing this family.

When the truth hit me and I realized that all of these things – the managing, the raising of children – are what God gave me to do right now, I stopped worrying about what I wasn’t doing and focused on doing what I was meant to do. Those things are sacred and mean a whole lot to God, so I relaxed and did them well.

But accepting God’s plan doesn’t necessarily mean that we are growing closer to God. In fact, my soul was still suffering. I was doing fine, but fine isn’t joyful. It isn’t grateful. It isn’t filled with the fruit of the Spirit no matter how hard we believe that we are cool with how life turned out.

This is not a minor thing in God’s eyes. He tells us over and over in the Bible to read, reflect, and meditate on his word in order to live a holy and righteous life, filled with spiritual peace. Every Bible study advises its students to memorize Scripture, to keep Bible verses in the back pockets of our minds, to be called up when faced with trials and to remind us to praise God in the good times. Just because the Holy Spirit moves in our lives daily, just because we know what Jesus did for us when he died on that cross, just because we walk outside and stand in awe of God’s creation – just because we are in tune to all of that doesn’t mean that we are constantly seeking and meditating on God’s living word.

It takes work to grow and to learn and to change. It takes time to mature. It takes very specific actions and decision-making to be nourished by God’s constant stream of wisdom.

Meditating on God’s word is not easy. It’s not natural. It’s hard to “fit in” to an already packed schedule (Just today I gazed at my very full calendar and said a quick “please please please God just let me get through next month”. But did I dive into his word? No.).

I would like to be like the tree that flourishes because it is planted in God’s stream of life-giving water, one that produces an abundance of fruit of the Spirit in time. God can be revealed in many ways, but the most personal is when he speaks to us through his word. His voice is within us when we read what he has to say. It isn't that we need to find a place to fit God's word into our lives, it's that when we make his word our priority, we will experience a blossoming in our lives. The best way to do this is to keep up the relationship through prayer, praise, and seeking his wisdom.

We just have to be willing to do the work. Time spent with God is never wasted. It never returns void, and every crumb of it matters to him.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Powers For Good



Hi. I haven’t written here in a while.

It’s been tough to come up with words of faith lately.

I’m not sure why, since I’ve been hanging close to God since our absence from church in the fall. I guess it’s just been harder to share since I got out of practice of regularly writing about faith.

Doesn’t that happen often? We get out of the habit of doing something good, and one day we realize we hadn’t done it in over a month.

Writing about faith isn’t the same as having faith. The Bible says “It’s impossible to please God without faith because the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him.” Hebrews 11:6

But the Bible also says In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”James 2:17

And on and on and on.

I’m no Bible scholar, so I won’t provide an in-depth analysis about the relationship between faith and good works, fearing that I might make a mistake and lead anyone astray. But basically, you can’t please God by only doing good things, and you can’t claim faith if you don’t show it by the things you do. If we have faith, we should do good things to practice and strengthen it, and we should do good things out of faith and not for our own glory.

This blog came out of a suggestion from our pastor, who approached me at church and said that he’d like me to “use my powers for good.” I said "um, okay," and our church shares my link on their weekly newsletter. Once in a while people tell me they read my blog, and lately I’ve been wondering just how far back the one or two people who have approached me needed to go in my archive to read something new.

But is writing about my faith a good work? I’ve been writing online for enough years to know I couldn’t possibly be doing this for my own glory – an extremely small number of people read what I have to say, and it’s impossible to know the impact of these words. It’s fair to say that I am doing this for my own enjoyment and edification, and hoping that God is using my writing to benefit that small handful of people who are reading. Am I really using my powers for good? Especially if I’ve dropped the ball and write only sporadically?

I truly believe that God put us each here to influence each other in ways that expand and strengthen his Kingdom on earth and in heaven. We don’t know how we are being used by God in our everyday lives. And we have to lay down our own lives daily to live for him if that is what we want. We exercise our free will to either do for God or do for ourselves. It gets tangly in my mind when I do something that I truly enjoy – am I doing this for me, or for God? Can God still use my efforts if I’m consciously only doing them for myself?

I have to believe that he does. Sometimes I think about writing for days and weeks and months and whine It’s so harrrrrrd and I force myself to fumble through my thoughts and then other times I think to myself Wow, I really have something to say here and the ideas flow and I read and re-read and hurt myself from patting my own back so much.

I know enough about God to realize that it’s his will to do whatever he wants with my words, whether copious or scarce. Or whatever I’m doing when I’m not writing. That as long as I give my life to him daily, he is using my efforts for his plan. That’s where my faith lies: in trusting him to use the powers he gave me for good.

What “powers” or gifts have you received by God that you use for good?

Do your faith and good work often get tangled up with or overshadowed by your own desire for glory?

How does God help you stay on track of doing good things for him by faith?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Appreciate

“Why not me?”

It can be hard not to get swept up in feelings of entitlement. Everybody’s grabbing for more and if you don’t get your hand in you lose out. Personally I’ve never felt this as much as when I’m in line at a potluck dinner. There seems to be plenty of food, but if you wait until the end, there is usually a dish that is empty. What was in it? Is it that one thing that people are raving about? I’ve missed out. I should have gotten there sooner, should’ve taken my place in line first. Bunch of hogs, eating up all the good stuff before everyone has a chance to get theirs.

I’m a selfish, comfort-loving gal by nature, and when things don’t go my way, I have an ugly habit of being bitter and resentful toward the person, place or thing closest to my sucky experience.

The good news is that I’m growing out of this habit. As the years pass I’m not as impatient, and more apt to watch than grab. There’s no hurry for more – I’ve had enough. Getting is overrated; let others get theirs.

Instead of wanting what you don’t have, appreciate what you do have. It’s not what you get, it’s what you give. It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.

These statements all strike a familiar, similar chord: appreciate. Some are actual song lyrics.

Appreciation for what we have and what others do for us are plain good manners.  We try to teach children very early to say please and thank you, to show appreciation for what they are given. We withhold treats until they say the magic words, and reward them when they are spoken. But we can only teach the words, not the feelings. They may say thank you but under their breath they may be muttering it’s about time.

It’s easy to feel as if we deserve better treatment, especially following a difficult period.  We need a break, after all.  We want what’s coming to us, and we may feel as if we are owed good things for hard work or hard times. 

But life doesn’t always give us what we want.  It’s a life-long lesson, learning to appreciate what we have, especially when things are hard. In this world we are never promised good things in return for bad.

Except by God.

God promises us eternal life in a perfect world – he sacrificed his Son to fulfill this promise. He promises peace and love and light and everything we need and want beyond what we imagine. He promises wonderful things that will come after we die, but he also assures us that some things are available even during our lives on earth.

Paul wrote letters of appreciation during periods of imprisonment for doing the very thing he encouraged others to do: preaching the Good News about Jesus.  He had every reason to be bitter, but he allowed the love of Jesus to spill into his words to others. 

This is extreme appreciation.

Paul found the love of Jesus in his heart, and as a result, he felt peace and love and the strength to encourage others even though he was in some seriously scary situations, in pain, and running for his life. He appreciated all that God gave him, though his life was marked with death and fear. He couldn’t have done this without God’s provision. As a result many others were saved and found the love of God in their own lives. God brought himself to the people in the form of Paul’s example and his words. He continues to do this for all of us.

We don’t know what God has planned for us each day of our lives. Some days we might not get what we think we deserve. But when we focus on the things we don’t have, it’s easy to miss the things we do have. Often it is the love of family and friends and community that is most overlooked. I’ve done it. But I’ve learned that just when I think I’m not getting mine, it’s time to think about what I’ve already got, and my plate has been full for years. God has done this for me.

May we all find the wellspring of Jesus’ love within us, so that we can appreciate what we have, what we are given, and those who have touched our lives in positive ways.

Thank you, Lord, for putting people in our lives who love and encourage us spiritually.  Amen.



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Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9


Monday, November 28, 2016

His Ways


This is a good passage to read and remember when bad things happen.  When troubles descend and we have exhausted our blame, we turn to the one who we believe is responsible for it all: God.

We lash out against his decisions, turn our backs to him, and tell ourselves that we are better off without him.  We use examples of the horrors of the world to support our claims that God is a monster.

What we fail to realize in those dark moments is that God does so much good and continues to do good despite our troubles.  He created the sun and the moon and and lives in the kindness of friends and strangers.  His power and goodness supersedes any of the world’s evils.

And he will wait all of our lives for us to realize it.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Accept Your Fate

The phrase sounds like a command to give up. ‘Accept your fate, earthlings’ – I can just hear it in an alien voice just before a beam of light whooshes a crowd of people up into a spaceship and disappears into the night sky.

I may have watched too many sci-fi movies in my youth.

Fate, a predetermined set of events that makes up our individual lives, is an arguable concept. Some people regard life as a random series of events, some think we create our own path, and others believe that our lives are designed for us by a supernatural being.

I believe in God, and I follow this last line of thinking about fate.

For someone who has made plenty of terrible choices in life, seeing my life as a story laid out by the One who loved all of us so much that he gave up his son so that we may live in heaven together is a hopeful prospect. My fate as a Christian is to live eternally in heaven with Jesus. There will be no worry, no sorrow, no disease, and no pain. We will celebrate with pure joy, work with pleasure, and have changed hearts, minds, and bodies.

I believe that we are given certain gifts to nurture and develop throughout life to help us make the choices that best fit the life we are created to live. We are born into circumstances that lead us to God in the way that he set out for us, and he knows when Christ’s love for us will be revealed.

With this in mind, we live and work with this hope that can transform the way we think about the world, how we treat others, and even how we feel. I tried to live with God-less hope – it didn’t work for me. Sorrow and the specter of futility always met me somewhere, no matter how much I tried to be a happy, hopeful person. The world is too big for my own puny power of hope for good things.

Unfortunately, sorrow and pain don’t leave us alone –in fact, the closer we are to God, the more those things peck and gnaw at us. But with God’s power and the belief that my fate lies in him, I can abide the evils of the world knowing that they will end eventually. It’s hard, though, and I fail at this on a regular basis. I am no stranger to complaining and crying when things aren’t going well.

When I think about fate, I think of what Jesus did for us, what he came to earth to do, the lives he affected. He started a series of events that led to millions believing in eternal life through his sacrifice. He gave all of us a chance for that eternal life.

He gave us hope in accepting our fate.

"The world is mine, and all that is in it." Psalm 50:12


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