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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Redeeming the Time

I read this phrase the other day in a daily devotional, and it lit up on the page, holding its place on a nerve that I didn't even know existed.

I like the way it sounds:  Redeeming the time.  It’s like a motto, a catchphrase, something to attach your life’s meaning to.  Am I redeeming the time?

Redeeming the time means that you live with intention and use every second of your day to work toward a goal.  I’m attracted to the idea of redeeming the time because it’s purposeful; it’s as if everything you do is important, for good reason.

Redeeming the time is a reminder not to waste the precious minutes of life away, something that I’m very nearly a pro at doing and with which I struggle.  I’m a solitary person.  To get out there and live requires effort, a frequent internal pep talk .

Redeeming the time is a push to do better, to take the time offered to us by God to do good for his Kingdom, to fill our lives with worthwhile endeavors, to deepen and broaden our relationship with Christ.  To take the hour that I was planning on spending watching TV and instead hang out with my kids, read the Bible, reach out to a friend, or pray.

It implies that no matter what life looks like today, tomorrow I can start fresh.  We are given many opportunities to redeem the time we have been given.  We don’t have to stumble blindly as we have in the past; we can stride with a purpose, keeping our hands held out and our eyes seeking Jesus.

Redeeming the time we have been given on this earth is to do something for good, for God.  Use the hours we have been gifted in praise of him who has given us life.  Change our mindset to one that is Christ-centered, not self-centered.  There are millions of ways to redeem the time.

I am called to do just one of them right now.  The choice is mine.


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“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 5:15-17 (NKJV)


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blocked

I was having trouble thinking of things to write about.

It happens; life isn’t always full of ‘write about it’ events.  Especially when my activities the past few days revolved around shoveling snow, food shopping, doing laundry, and watching kids play basketball.  We did watch a few movies, too.

Not quite riveting.  The movies were good, though.

So when I sat down to write about something faith-related, I drew a blank.  Usually my daily devotional gives me something to think about, but my mind was a steel trap.   Nothing was coming in and nothing sure was coming out.

So as usual I side-stepped turning to the one who has answers to everything, the one who desires me to turn to him in every.single.thing. first, the one who created me and saved me and who gave me life and eternity.

I turned to Google instead.

Not surprisingly, I came up with nothing.

God.  How many years will it take before I look to God for my answers first?  The thought causes my throat to catch and brings tears to my eyes.  I feel disappointing.  I feel his sorrow over my oversight.  God, the one who gave me these words to type and the very hands to type them, is here with me all the time, surrounding me and tapping me on the shoulder even when I’ve turned to the world for answers first.  God.

I could write about how God saved me from self-destruction over and over again when I was a teen, or when I was twenty, or even again when I was thirty.  I could write about how I often overlook the cross in favor of God when thinking about holy things, as if Jesus is somehow separate and less holy because he was a man.  I could write about any number of Bible stories and my impressions about them.  I could write about how our church’s sermon series about the least of these in our world today causes me to shift uncomfortably in my seat every Sunday because these topics are the very ones that give me nightmares.  How I can’t even bring myself to think about them past Sunday afternoon and how weak that makes me feel.

Or I could write about how, as a person who has known God all my life, still fails to turn to him in even the most mundane of personal issues.  And how he reveals himself even then, in the gentlest way he can, even though he could easily thump me on the head with his glory.

I have plenty to write about.  I just need to remember where the source lies.


image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Kaddy64


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Formerly when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods at all.  But now that you have come to know God (or rather to be known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?  Galatians 4:8-9 (NET)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spinning

Last weekend our family went to a competition where over a hundred kids showed off their work in the area of robotics.  The culmination of the day was an awards ceremony where the teams who succeeded in various categories received trophies.

After the competition part was over, the crowd was entertained by a DJ.  It was dance party time, the part of the day that our kids were most excited about, and the crowd of kids (and some adults) wiggled, jumped, and danced along to the songs.  My husband and I sat together on the bleachers as spectators, enjoying all the fun that was happening.

As we watched, the group devolved from dance hall to free-for-all, as groups broke off and did their own thing.  This group joined hands and ran in a circle.  That group played tag.  A group of girls walked, crab-like, on their hands and feet.

I had never seen such a display of so many types of behavior in one room before.

We saw one kid, a little ways off from the others, spin around as fast as he could on one knee.  My husband pointed him out to me, and we smiled as we saw him spin, then lose what little balance he had left and collapse face down on the floor.  He sat up, and we could tell his stability was still impaired as his head kept moving to one side.  We laughed as he shook it to get rid of the dizziness.  Then he stood up and ran off, no worse for the wear.

I spun as a child, twirling with my arms outstretched, inducing the sensation of dizziness and the resulting silliness of stumbling around.  I’d never try it now as an adult – my body can’t handle the physical sensation of spinning anymore.  But sometimes I feel as if my brain is spinning with responsibilities and tasks.

I hate that.  I hate feeling overwhelmed, off balance.  The bathrooms need to be cleaned again.  We’re out of milk.  Jeez, Andrea, get it together.  You just took down your Christmas tree YESTERDAY?  Do you know it’s almost February?

We all admit how busy we are.  Sometimes it’s just bragging.  If I list all the things I do, then everyone will be impressed with how hard I work.  I fall into this trap sometimes, listing the things I do every day.  It makes me feel better to know that I’ve been productive, that I’ve accomplished much.  In reality, I’m just spinning.  I’m showing the world what my brain tells me I need to do.

Sometimes I stop when I begin to list the things I do that keep me so busy.  I realize that I’m not doing anything courageous by getting through the day; my tasks aren’t harder or more important than anyone else’s.  Only my pride causes me to list all the things I do.

I hate realizing my own pride more than the feeling of being off balance. 

In those moments I need to remember that God gives me the tasks I must do.  They are not of my own construction.  God gave me this family, this home, these things to do.  If I do them, I do them for his glory; not anyone else’s, and certainly not mine.  I feel at peace when I know that I am scrubbing toilets for God’s glory rather than my own.  I am less hard on myself when I’m taking down the Christmas tree a month after Christmas is over.  After all, God gave me this task to do and this time to do it.  When I remember this my pride takes a backseat.

So much goes into God’s plan for us.  So much more than spinning around doing tasks left and right.  He is teaching us all something specific about ourselves, about him.  For me it is realizing that my tasks are just mine.  To be humble about doing them.  To be nicer to myself when they don’t get done.  To not look for accolades from others.


And to find my balance, my foothold in his Kingdom.



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After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.  I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.  It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.  And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.  For we are both God’s workers.  And you are God’s field.  You are God’s building.  1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NLT)

So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm.  Do not be moved!  Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 15:58 (NET)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Lady in France: A Review on About 100%

Hi, Friends!

When you're a blogger, you make blogger friends if you're lucky.  And if you're a nice person.

Believe it or not, nice goes a long way on the internet.  And being nice is fun when you find that there are a lot of other really nice people out there to become friends with.  Jennie of the blog A Lady in France is one of those people.

About a year ago, Jennie published her memoir on her blog.  I waited to read it each week, as she published her story one chapter at a time.  Jennie's story is amazing, taking us from her college days in Avignon, France, to Asia, New York City, Africa, and finally back to France.  She talks of unfathomable loss, heartache, and complete joy.  Through it all is the undercurrent of her faith journey, how she was called and how she continues to live according to God's guidance.

At the end of the year, Jennie's memoir was published as a book, and she asked me to do a review.  I posted the review on my other blog About 100% today, and along with it is a chance to win a copy of Jennie's book, A Lady in France.

Won't you cruise on over there to read my review and enter your chance to win a copy of her book?

It would be so nice of you - thanks!




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**I was not compensated for this post.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Word

Resolutions are swirling on the internet right now; a new year is almost a prerequisite for making sweeping changes - or at least one little one - in our lives.  I’ve spent the last week reading blog posts about how one person wants to be healthier, how another wants to spend more time on hobbies, and another about someone who just generally wants to be nicer to herself this year.

And then there’s the one-word focus.

It’s the idea that you take one word for the year, and you own that word, and you focus on it to influence how you will live life.  Everything you do filters through this one word all year long.

It could be Peace.  Joy.  FinishExperience.  Forgive.  Breathe.  My personal favorite: Disentangle.

I’ve read about how people are going to look at the world through their new lenses, and how they hope to appropriate this word into their lives this year.  I’ve read about what they hope to accomplish, and I have spent the whole time willfully holding myself back from joining them.

Because this is a resolution, for goodness’ sakes.  And everybody knows that resolutions don’t last.  And everybody knows that I am not a bandwagon-jumper.  Okay, maybe you don’t know. 

I am not a bandwagon-jumper.

But I am an adult, and each year that passes claims another layer of pride, causing it to fade as sure as the colors of autumn.  And so as I read these words, and held myself back from taking one as my own, one word fell into my lap.

Reach.

It was a word I first saw in the toothbrush aisle.  But then, as I assessed the year and thought about the newness and the excitement that comes with January despite its bitterness, I realized that I was inspired to sort of expand and cease being so insular.

It’s been my life for so long – to stay close to home, to do only what is necessary outside of family life because our world in here is so big, so busy.  I’m not a terribly efficient manager of things, and looking out the window at the big, broad world is a distraction for me.  Reaching out is not my strong suit anyway.

But now I feel the pull, the need to stretch.  I’m sure God has something to do with this.  In fact, I’m sure God has everything to do with this.  For once I don’t feel like resisting.

Does this mean that I am going to scream the gospel from the rooftops?  Hilarious.  But why not?  I’m leaving that one up to God.  I don’t have any definite plans. Maybe that’s the whole appeal of the one word resolution – you sit with a word and let it percolate and it leads you in a slightly different direction than one you would normally take.  That’s fine for this non-planner.  I don’t know what Reach means in goal-speak.

So far this year, it means that the newness of January is a good time for me to open my heart just a little more and lean into what God is whispering to me.

One word at a time.



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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reorienting

Years ago our family had a little dog.  She was a terrier, bred to flush rats and other pests out of their hiding places.  In our home she did nothing of the sort, and lived her days either resting upon pillows or perched atop the highest piece of furniture she could find, little eyes fixed on the world outside our windows.  She never missed a squirrel sighting.  But when she was outside, her nose was to the ground, little legs trotting click, click, click as fast as they could in any direction the scents took her.  If we left her off the leash she would soon get lost.  She never looked up.

Slogging through days can be overwhelming and confusing.  We can lose our way when our noses are to the ground, and we soon find ourselves in a different place than we originally intended.  When our eyes are down we have blinders on, losing sight of our path.  We don’t start out intending to lose our way, but it happens.

I often feel this way by December, the madness of the holiday taking over as my nose is to the ground doing all the stuff that goes along with it.  It’s simultaneously my most and least favorite time of year.  I don’t take the time to look up, and by the end of the month I am triumphant, exhausted, harried, and grumpy.

I love the New Year because it promises new beginnings.  We vow to employ healthier ways of living, better organization, time to do well what we slacked off on by the end of last year.  It’s a freshly scrubbed time, and we promise ourselves that this year will be better, new, improved.

The New Year is a time to reorient.  Holiday decorations are put away and we assimilate new things into our everyday lives.  We get back to a schedule, adding new things and taking away old things that don’t fit anymore.  We renew our sights to what is right and good in our lives.

In January, I also reorient myself to God.  It’s funny, how Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  You’d think that such a holy celebration would also be the most spiritual.  But for me, this is hardly the case.  There’s a reason why a candlelit Silent Night makes me cry every year.  It’s the guaranteed time during the season that I look up, the one time that my nose is off the ground.  But in January, I take the chance to look up for longer than a song.  I can clearly see that God has been with me the whole time, and now I ask for direction, realign myself with his will, find my way once again.  He always helps me get on the path.

I wish that I could remember to do this every December, to really celebrate the holiness of Christmas.  But the nice thing about God is that he will wait for me to reorient myself, anytime.




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Go and celebrate… This is a sacred day before our Lord.  Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!  Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)