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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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Monday, November 7, 2016

Two Months of Sundays

For the past eight weeks I have missed Sunday morning service at our church because of kids’ activities. We’re pretty regular attendees, and I knew it was only temporary, so I didn’t think too much about it. Our church offers early Sunday morning and Saturday night services, and I guess I could have prioritized one or more of those times for worship, but I skipped those too. The kids went to service a couple of times, and my husband and I made our regular Sunday school class more than half of those Sundays, and I even taught teen Sunday school twice during that period, but we missed church on the regular.

Church worship service has become my Sunday morning refreshment, and during that brief period I missed the message, the fellowship, the opportunities to feel the Holy Spirit in the room. I missed little chances to serve and bigger opportunities to be a part of our church’s community.

Sitting in church and listening to God’s word in the message, through the voices of the worship leaders, and in the mass prayers of the people – there’s nothing else like it that fills my soul. It’s invigorating, comforting, reorienting. I missed it, and I missed it.

God is everywhere, and I don’t need a pew on Sunday to feel refreshed in him. I need only a moment to regard and acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my life, and pray thanks for his provision and his love. The Bible is always available, ready to pour God’s wisdom into my heart and mind.  But when you’re used to hearing God’s word spoken on a Sunday morning with a crowd of fellow congregants and you take some time off, you really notice that absence.

I have the same experience when I forget about God, when life gets really busy and I fail to rest in him, to pray to him, to meditate on his gifts, to rejoice in his love. I can sit in church every Sunday for a year and if my heart isn’t in it, the effect is the same as when I miss a month or two of Sundays.

The only thing blocking God’s word is me. Setting aside time isn’t difficult, but it is a choice. Just like we chose to take a break from regular church to do something else, listening to what God has to say in each of our lives –  and obeying his commands – these things are choices. Constant and conscientious ones that we miss if we forget about God.

During those eight weeks that we missed church, God still had things to say to me. He revealed some things, held me up during times of weakness, listened to my prayers, celebrated with me, and withstood my complaints. I wasn’t sitting in a church, but he was there.

God is always there. I am thankful for his presence, his provision, for who he is. I am grateful that he shows himself everywhere, even to those who take a break from seeing him in the most obvious places.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

#Blessed

It goes so fast, we say to other parents on the sidelines as we watch our kids do whatever activity they’re doing this season. Just yesterday they were learning to walk.

They are so grown up! we say about their school pictures. So beautiful! So handsome! They were just babies.

In a year they’ll be driving; we will miss this in a year, we commiserate with each other as we shuttle our kids back and forth in endless loops to school, to practice, to sleepovers and to parties. After that, college. And then they’re gone.

Gone. Off to live their own lives, leaving us behind with their youngest years. It’s a wonderful, agonizing thought.

* * *

At every stage of life we are given gifts to treasure. If we were born into a nurturing family, there’s one. If we are healthy, there’s another. Have great friends? Another. Time, a job we love, ambition, talent, means to live comfortably, good neighbors, the ability to love, trust, serve, and rest: these all are blessings, that wonderful word that has been given a hashtag to highlight it as the butt of everyone’s joke in recent years.

We are blessed. All of us are blessed in different ways. We might not see it clearly. Sometimes we want more, or something else.

I admit that I don’t always acknowledge what I’m given, don’t always see a gift for what it is. The spoils of a good life (paired with a flawed personality) have led me to struggle with openly accepting my blessings. Sometimes I want more, something else. 

Years ago a friend said that as she went about her daily chores, she reflected upon her life. “I thought life was going to be more glamorous than this,” she joked. I could relate. I’m a dreamer, and my job – raising kids, managing a home – is invisible, unappreciated, wholly unglamorous. I feel the weight of “You should be doing more” around my neck every day. Sometimes the weight is light and easily cast off; sometimes I feel as if I am being strangled with it. I know it’s a lie, but it is there.

The more satisfied among us, the ones with a more positive perspective (dare I say the ones who have it right?)  say “I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I have just what I want; nothing more, nothing less. I am blessed.”

I vacillate between admiring these people and wondering how long they’ve been lying to themselves.

* * *

I believe in God. I believe that he created our world and each one of us uniquely. I believe that he gave us specific gifts to benefit others and ourselves. I believe that he works within us, among us, and through us to teach us exactly what we need to know. I believe that he has a wonderful plan that includes all of us, and that he has created each of us to fulfill a role in this plan.




I believe that God works in invisible ways for good as we slog through the details of life. I believe that God has given me a family to take care of so that I stay in the moment and not wish for other things. The blessings of these people I am challenged to take on are bigger than any dream I can conjure; focusing on their care is my main lesson. 

Sometimes we have to consider that we are where we’re supposed to be no matter what life looks like. We aren’t missing anything crucial. God didn’t make a mistake with us. Sometimes he blesses us in ways that we don’t see, or we have disappointments that cause us to take another path that is richer and more rewarding. 

God is faithful; are we?

* * *

I look at my teenagers through adoring eyes. They are tall and strong and smart. They are good people. Nice kids. Caring friends. They make mistakes and have a lot to learn, and it seems they are now learning just as much from other places than at home. 

I have spent the majority of my time taking care of my family’s most basic needs: shelter, food, clothing. I have spent a lot of time teaching these tasks to my children so that they may take them when they go. I have also spent a lot of time complaining about these tasks, passing them off, running away from them, and dreaming of how my life would be different if they weren’t mine to do. I wonder how many more times I will look upon those tasks in a negative light. I hope it’s not many more.

This life that God gave me is full of gifts. In selfish moments I wish them away. But like everything from God, they are good; they are my blessings.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Giving – And Given – Freely

I saw him on the road most nights after work. He stood at the end of the off-highway ramp that was my exit for home. He leaned against the stop sign, holding a raggedy piece of cardboard with the words “Please help”.

When I first saw the man, dirty and leathery from spending his days unprotected in the hot sun, I felt a pang of sadness and even a little guilt for not stopping to help. I was in my early twenties after all, not able to spare much that could make a difference, and I was scared too, afraid of what a desperate stranger on the side of the road might do to a naïve young woman who opened her window and reached out her hand. I avoided eye contact and after taking that way home and seeing him many times, like so many other commuters, I ignored the man and his message.

One evening after an early dinner with a friend, I exited for home and, my courage buoyed by the presence of my friend in the car, hit the open window button and reached out to the man who still stood there in the fading daylight. He approached the car, and, seeing the container of food that I offered to him from our meal, waved us away disgustedly. Embarrassment and shame rippled through me – I had money to buy my dinner, why couldn’t I have given him some cash? How arrogant of me to expect that he would lap up my leftovers! I could have bought him a whole dinner of his own, even. But he didn’t even say no thanks.

My friend and I talked about him on the way home. Beggars can’t be choosers, we agreed callously. How rude was he, not even bothering to speak to us? Probably a drug addict, only interested in money for his next fix. He probably had a house somewhere, part of a crew of panhandlers on the highway who made their living taking money from chumps. From that moment on I ignored him when I saw him on the exit ramp, but the interaction still bothered me.

Years later, my husband, who travels for work, experienced a period in his life when people came up to him at different places – airports, usually – and asked for money. Money to help for a specific urgent need was the usual request. We talked about the coincidence of him being singled out by random people. Did you give them anything? I’d ask. He did. The people had good reasons for needing the cash. But my husband said that he sort of felt like he had been duped every time and that he wished he knew that they were using the money for the purpose he gave it.

In the Bible we are reminded that God loves widows and orphans, and takes care of those who live among us and who have no family of their own (Deuteronomy 10:18). He commands us to live generously as well, not being grudging with our giving, but give freely as God has freely given to us (Deuteronomy 15:10-11, Luke 6:30, 1 Corinthians 2:12).

It does not say in the Bible “Give freely, but only if the person is grateful and only if they really need it.”


When we give, we are not asked to judge the recipient of our generosity, nor called to put expectations on those to whom we give. We don’t give a birthday gift to a friend and ask them later if they are using it. Our involvement ends the moment the gift is in their hands; we don’t have control over how others use what they are given. If we worry about how a person is using something we’ve given to them, then our hearts weren’t in the right place when we gave the gift anyway. If they misuse the gift, that’s their problem to work through with God.

God could say the same about me. How many gifts have I received from him that I take for granted, refuse to thank him for, see as a burden, ignore, manipulate or squander?

Plenty.

God calls us to give freely as he has given to us. That’s all. It’s freeing to live life in the simple ways he asks us to live. If we can put aside our own encumbrances like expecting thanks or being recognized for a good deed or even knowing that our gift is used well, we can be at peace knowing that we are living the life we are meant to live. The person we help might not thank us, but we are asked to help anyway. This reminder is important for all of us to keep in mind when we give help, time, or resources. The recipient may not receive in the way we expect, but we have done what we were called to do.

And that is enough.

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Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT)

Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Luke 6:30 (NLT)

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NIV)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

In Need of a Faith Jump

Faith may grow during a lifetime, but it is not always a steady culmination. Even the most devout follower of Christ may lose interest in pursuing God.

We can blame the world’s temptations, hard times, illness, or plain distraction on this lapse or slowdown of faith-building. They are all valid reasons for a person stalling out on Jesus. It happened to Jesus’ disciples, and they were so devoted that they toured with him (John 6:60-66).

If this happened to people who saw Jesus and heard him speak every day, what hope do modern followers of Jesus have, we who don’t have the benefit of sharing his company? I don’t have lunch dates with Jesus, where we chat about what I need to accomplish the building of my faith. I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t know what God’s voice sounds like. Where is that voice that we hear above all others while life’s distractions fill our minds and seep into our hearts?

He is there, of course. He is always there. We feel his presence from the first day we believe. We are taught how to reconnect with him: read your Bible and serve others and pray and get with other Christians and go to church and listen to praise music and talk to a pastor. The Bible tells us to do all of these things and more on a daily basis to remain in The Father The Son and The Holy Spirit.

We each are given the same chance of the gift of salvation. It is offered to all and fits every one of us the same. We are not all given the same environmental conditions in which to pursue him – some people live in places where believing in Jesus can result in death – but the ultimate gift of eternal life is the same for all.

No matter where we are in our faith, we each have a difficult job to keep it up. The world makes sure that our lives are filled with obstacles and distractions. No one person has it easier or harder than another to keep the flames of conviction going; God equips us with custom-made tools to continue building our faith.

Easy for me to say, one who lives in a place with freedom of religion, where my parents practiced a Christian lifestyle and were comfortable inside the walls of a church. Further, my upbringing and subsequent life were peaceful, without regular fear or hardship. Save for a couple of bumps in the road, my path to Jesus was paved pretty smoothly. I had only my own convictions to overcome to see the light.

Sometimes the crosses we carry are invisible, only in our minds. Mental illness, pride, lack of confidence, self-aggrandizing beliefs, even laziness can steer us away from God.

We can all stall out on Jesus. We lag behind and wave our comrades in faith on ahead. Go on without me. Leave me here. I can’t go on any further. It’s taking too long to get there. I’ll catch up later.

Thing is, we can’t afford to catch up later. It doesn’t take any time to derail a person from pursuing faith. It’s too easy to give up – Jesus isn’t physically standing over us with his hand extended, ready to help us up, and when we give up, the world is ready to catch us in its wave and sweep us away.

But Jesus is here. God is here. The Spirit – here. All are here to get us back up and on our way. It might take a faith jump – serving others, a retreat, a new Bible study, making regular lunch dates with a good Christian friend – to get us going, but our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will always be here to give us what they promise.

Forever.


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Rules for Love

The world has many rules for love. They trickle into our relationships, settle into our ways of thinking, influence our behavior, and can even twist and warp pure love into something interpersonally dysfunctional and personally harmful. We have all fallen into this trap of what the world tells us about love, and sometimes we spend our lives grasping at and clinging to an idea of love that isn’t love at all. We run in circles to conform to an ever-changing version of love that we are told matters the most today, and exhaust our emotions and our time and mental capacity trying to achieve what everyone else says is true love. #relationshipgoals

True love isn’t finding a soul mate or still holding hands after fifty years of marriage. It isn’t celebrating every milestone or giving gifts. It isn’t meeting expectations or accepting every behavior. These are just actions.

When love becomes a series of actions or rules or goals, we are chasing a dream instead of the real thing. We are dissatisfied when real love comes our way, and we miss it. Sometimes we’ve been convinced that there’s something about us that makes us unworthy of love, which is an even more sinister lie.

We have lost sight of what love is at its core.

God is love. And all love is from God.

Love is without fear, punishment, or condition. It is kind and strong. It is free and pure and can grow and blossom even in unlikely situations or relationships. It is found between friends and relatives and spouses and strangers. It is the peace that comes from knowing that you love and are loved. It is neither a checklist nor a set of goals to be met. Love can wait. If it is from God, it is on his timeline. No personal goals or demands from others set its pace or timeframe. It can’t be imposed, and it can’t be rushed.

Each of us has to figure this out on our own; the world ensnares all of us in its weird versions of love early and often, and tells us that we make our own rules about love. Eventually we emerge from the trap and can finally learn what love really is.

Love is the example of Jesus – his sacrifice, but also his life.

We can receive it and pass it on. And we can live in it, if we choose.


Dear God, everything in this world is so difficult. I am grateful that you have provided love to show us the goodness you intend and have made for us to receive. Thank you, Amen.

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Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Job

It’s hard to admit a behavior when it doesn’t match how we’d like to present ourselves.

We read the news about climate change, see images of mountains of trash in developing countries, and hear about plastics clogging the oceans, and we join conversations, stating “We need to do more about pollution.” “I’m going to recycle more.” “We need to pay more attention to how we’re treating the Earth.” “I’m going to support environmental causes.” “We are contributing to our world’s demise.” “I’m going to be serious about my contribution to this issue.” “We need to do something together to combat this problem.”

Yet there’s a squashed water bottle right there in front of me, right there in the parking lot at Target. It looks like it’s been there for days. In seconds, I tsk tsk the person who left it there, double check that I locked my car, make sure my phone is in my purse, and step over it on my way into the store.

Not my trash, not my problem. Plus, ew. How long has it been there? Germ-riddled, dirty thing. The person whose lips touched that could have a stomach bug, strep throat, the consumption.

And in those few seconds it took me to ignore a small thing that I could do, something that wouldn’t cost me a penny or any time out of my day, I left the trash there, indifferent to the trashing of my neighborhood.

I contributed to the problem.

I didn’t do anything when I could have done something.

We are all expected to contribute to the upkeep of society. We teach our children Please and Thank You, hold doors open for each other, and shop locally to promote the neighboring economy. We agree that we all have to work together to make the world a better place.

We all have this responsibility. ALL. What do we do about it?

It’s such a big job, we say. I can’t go around picking up everyone’s trash. I’ll never get anything done! It’s too much. Someone else can do it.

As Christians we are called to bring the gospel to non-believers, and to shine God’s love and to spread his truth to everyone regardless of faith.

All Christians have this responsibility. ALL. What do we do about it?

It’s such a big job, we say. I’m not a preacher. Just because I go to church, I have to be an evangelist, too? It’s too much. Someone else can do it.

I gave up the notion of doing humongous things for God years and years ago. I realized that one in 7 billion people doesn’t have much of a chance at making a difference in the world overall, especially when my main tasks centered on meeting my family’s needs. It was a hard lesson to learn because it seemed that the expectation was to do major things in a visible way so that the maximum number of people could be reached. What are YOU doing for Jesus today? those expectations asked me, all judgmental. Um, I made dinner tonight? Why yes, it was hot dogs again. I only yelled twice, and I didn’t make a snide remark to my husband today. Do those things count? I always felt inferior when it came to serving God.

When it hit me that every single thing I do in love and for the love of God through the gifts he gave me: paying attention to his quiet whispers of encouragement, showing kindness to others, performing mundane tasks without complaint, praying for my friends and neighbors – all of those things were exactly what I was made to do.

When I realized that THIS is my job, it didn’t bother me that I was doing little things.

Like picking up one piece of someone else’s trash in the parking lot. It may sound insignificant, but it’s not my job to judge what’s important. That’s God’s job.

Sharing God’s love is my job. It doesn’t matter what that looks like.

*******

Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Perfect Timing

Last week I spent a week at church camp with a bunch of teenagers.

While church camp certainly isn’t my number one destination choice for a week of summer, I have to say: it wasn’t terrible.

Truthfully, it was pretty great. There were incredible speakers and music and reflection time and company and conversation and laughter everywhere you went; great doesn’t even begin to describe it, actually. It had all the elements of a good vacation anywhere: plenty of activity and relaxation time, meals that were all taken care of, a clean, dry place to sleep at night.

Yes, there was sleeping. At church camp. Maybe a first.

I wouldn’t know for sure – it was my first time.

By the time I was a teen, I had camped before, usually a night or two away. In fourth grade I went to Girl Scout horse camp that scarred me for life (my horse, Sugar, terrified me after the day she stopped to pee, pinning the toe of my boot under her enormous hoof, but who remembers details like that, never mind, I’m perfectly fine), and I vaguely recall some other camping at a very young age, but a week of church camp was off my radar by the time I was a teenager.

It’s fair to say that I was a little nervous about going to church camp as an adult – after all, it’s a little late for me – and I also wondered if I would be an awful and ineffective leader. I quickly realized that I was surrounded by people I knew who had been there at least once before and were more than willing to answer questions and explain confusing things and were nice enough not to roll their eyes in an obvious way when I asked dumb questions and couldn’t figure out the schedule.

As usual I was mentally unprepared, barely considering that I would be responsible for making sure 11 girls got to and from their various activities on time. Lucky for me my teen squad knew me already, and they were comfortable showing me the ropes when I had no idea what I was doing, and after two days of slinking in five or ten minutes late for everything on the schedule, by the third day I finally knew what was going on and was able to help them stay on track.

But the best part about church camp? God.

It’s a no-brainer that God was present at a camp specifically designed for people to bond over their faith and talk about Jesus and changed lives. It’s why we went, why parents send their kids there: to spend time away from home, for the church camp experience. To grow in their faith with others and to learn who they are according to Him away from the distractions of everyday life.

Every day, the Holy Spirit was present as tears were shed when talking about loved ones who don’t believe, listening to questions about faith, wondering what God expects from us, making decisions for the rest of our lives.

By the end of the week I had heard outrageous stories of what kids do with their friends when away from home at church camp, but I also experienced with them the outrageous love that God has for his children. It was an honor to share these experiences with all the people who were there, to serve God in a way that was a pleasure and despite what most people think, not like a sacrifice at all.

I’m so glad that I finally went to church camp. It was the perfect time.




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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Optimist

I was sort of a gloomy little kid. My cynical phase started in elementary school and never really ended.

Meanness, betrayal, ugly truths revealed by education, the news, personal experiences of how horrid people can be – all these things caused me to regard the world with general wariness.

People are mean. We’re mean. We delight in watching train wrecks, love counting the bodies.

My husband consumes world events. He sits at the kitchen table with his iPad and tells me what’s happening. He asks “Did you hear about…?” My answer is a vague Sure, sometimes No.

Ugliness, fighting, senseless killing and other tragedies: these are uncovered, dissected, examined every day. More bombs dropped, literally and figuratively. It’s become a competition to see what Big Important News Story can get the most entertainment miles. It’s happening; every angle is covered. Tomorrow will bring another thing to be outraged about – that’s a guarantee.

My husband can examine a news story, understand the relative importance of it, hold onto its entertainment value for a second, and let it go. I scan a news item and immediately descend into a rabbit hole of moral, philosophical, and cultural repercussions. It's hard to find my way out. I read sparingly.

Recently I had a conversation with some friends about how social media is turning into a forum for opinions and editorials. For every news item that gets its time in the spotlight, thousands of people are ready to spout their opinions. It’s not what I signed up for, to learn which of my friends are for or against gun control, which presidential candidate they support, what civil rights issue is most important right now.

I signed up on social media to see pictures, to hear funny life experiences, to chat and to connect. That hasn’t changed for me.

I wondered if I have my head in the sand, that I shut my eyes to keep the bad stuff out, that I am naïve and stupid and silly for staying away from bandwagons, that I am missing The Big Parade. I care about things that happen in the world – I’m not cavalier about them. But I also don’t wring my hands and worry about them – I can figure out what I can do to help, and sometimes it’s to pray and continue to live this life, to love God and love others.

Then my friend said something that reoriented my perspective:

“Man sinned in the garden. Sin was defeated on the cross but we live with it until Jesus comes again. Evil has its 15 minutes. Jesus wins. The end.”

I am a Christian. I believe in this truth, that God has a plan for each of us, for all of us together. Terrible things happen because of the sin in this world. War and famine and terrorism and hate – they are all the same to God. They aren’t what he wanted when he created this world, but it’s what people have started, and his plan allows us to be redeemed by Christ, to live in a perfect world that is forthcoming.

No evil is bigger than God’s good. I believe that he planted this truth in me, which is maybe a reason why I don’t jump onto bandwagons. I don’t have to figure out why the world is as it is today. I know why. The things that are happening are terrible for sure, and things to come are worrisome, but I believe that good will prevail.

I will stay away from meanness, from the terrible things that people do to each other. I will scroll past fantastic news stories, and refrain from engaging into discussions about the issue of the day. This world is broken – I don’t need to read a hundred articles to understand this, and I don’t want to have conversations illustrating just how bad things are. It breaks me down, focusing on the bad stuff, and I was not created to be broken down. I was created to be a light to shine in this world. To pray and to live this life.

I have hope that God will do what he promised he would. My role is to proclaim this hope.

Maybe I’m not so gloomy after all.

* * *
No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.
Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.
Luke 11: 33-36
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All the Stages of Life


The past few years I have known great change, yet it creeps along so subtly that it is only during moments of slowness and reflection that I realize just how different the landscape looks now.

My children are teenagers, vastly different people than who they were not too long ago. They change daily. Our home is fifteen years old, in need of everything new. My body is slower and weaker; I have to be more careful.

Connections with others have changed or are lost. Loved ones are gone now, after periods of illness or infirmity which seem to last a long time in suffering but in retrospect are only months or weeks long. Formerly strong attachments to others have weakened and fallen away.

Other relationships have deepened; marriage and friendships grow stronger through life events that test bonds. New conversations are shared within established relationships, drawing us even closer together, making life sweeter and more grounded.

During all these changes, the Lord has been with me through it all. I am grateful, because change is hard. I need something solid to rest upon. I’m not afraid to admit it.



God is with us all the days of our lives, even when we don’t know him. He watches out for us, and has unique plans for each of us. He waits for us to answer his call – he has infinite patience! He cries in sorrow when one of us turns our back on him. He wants us all to know Jesus, to be saved, but he will never force us to accept his gift.

This kind of grace is unknown to us on earth – not one of us is as selfless as God, ready to let others in our lives grow in directions that go against what we want for them, what we think they should do. We hang on as if our happiness depends on how they conduct their lives.

We each have been given a life of our own. We are given different bodies, gifts, and circumstances that we must figure out how to use to craft a way of life in this world. We each have choices to make that are ours only.

When I think about what God has given me, instead of reflecting on all the ways that my life has changed recently, I am thankful. Thankful for this life that was made to fit me perfectly. Thankful for the choices I have been given, even though some have been difficult. Thankful for arriving at this point in life and faith - it hasn’t been easy.



There have been some things that I could have done without. Some wounds take a long time to heal, and some sorrows are hard to ignore. Even today, I could be more charitable, more helpful, softer with my words and gentler with my attitude. I’m not done yet.

I have no doubt that God will be with me during the rest of my life and all its stages. I have no doubt that there will be more of the growth that has brought me here, even though I sometimes miss it while it’s happening.

At the end of this life, I hope to still be able to look back and say Thank You to the God that saw me through it.

Every single stage.



Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34


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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pondering the Direction



How do we combat the things in our lives that try to pull us away from God? Do we hurry without lingering to obey God’s commands instead of allowing ourselves to be swept away by the world? It’s so easy to go with the flow.

Until the flow turns into a waterfall. A whirlpool. A steep drop-off. Sometimes, the flow ends abruptly and we end up sitting in the middle of a desert.

In each of these scenarios, we are at the mercy of whatever swept us away. Who knows what the end point will be?

Satan attacks God’s strongest warriors, I’ve learned. Those who have strong faith are constantly under spiritual attack from the devil’s schemes. An army of heaven’s soldiers is always fighting for our souls. It’s an abstract thought for a very real world.

The whole business wears me out. I don’t have the strength to stand on my own. I rely on God’s army to back me up, but sometimes, I’m too overwhelmed to fight or to hurry to obey God’s commands. Evil comes too fast, and I always seem to have one hand tied behind my back. So I sit down and wait for the danger to pass.

The thing is: the danger doesn’t pass. It is always there, inching its way closer until it takes control.

We all have areas of weakness where the enemy takes aim. Physical or mental health, relationships, personal tendencies – we all have soft spots. Sometimes they change or multiply. None of us is fully shielded from danger all the time.

I have to assume that not one person on this earth is immune to the strength of Satan’s attacks. None of us is God, after all. Even Jesus was tempted to stray from God. The stronger we are in faith, the more underhanded are the techniques used to fight against us. Satan can even use our own perceived strengths to make us blind and arrogant. We don’t even know that we are being overtaken.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil,” says the Bible (Eph. 6:11). God’s armor: his word, Jesus’ blood, the Holy Spirit, our faith.

At times I find myself – like the psalmist – pondering the direction of my life. Am I going in the way that leads to the Lord? Or have I become tired and complacent, allowing the world to sweep me away? Worse – am I relying too much on my own strength to carry me through the battle, becoming blind to my own weaknesses?

Only when I am fully anchored to God can I live a holy life. From the smallest seed of faith, I have learned that I can do nothing on my own accord to live the life God intends for me. My weaknesses are too great – I am only one soldier fighting against Satan’s army of evil. But with God’s word, Jesus’ salvation, and the Holy Spirit, I can be victorious, refreshed and ready to fight without lingering.


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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Comfort

I’m all about comfort.

I like a state of ease and contentment, free from pain and worry. We are all like this. We seek the familiar, what makes us comfortable.

Comfort can be a dirty word in the Christian faith – “Get out of your comfort zone!” is a popular command. The idea that if we are comfortable all the time, we aren’t growing in Jesus is emphasized. If you’re all about comfort, you aren’t doing it right.

We can forget that in our zeal to live like Paul, to boldly enter into each day for God no matter the consequence, that God seeks to comfort us. He wants to assuage the hardships in our lives. Further, we are to embrace that which he gives us in every situation, even the comfort that eases our tension, and pass it along to others using our holy gifts of care, compassion, and love.

A full definition states that comfort is a strengthening aid, one that brings assistance and support, or consolation in time of trouble or worry. Solace. I hope to be that for someone – I seek it. God is a comfort to me in this way. I’d like to be this for others, if it’s possible. We are encouraged to do for others as God has done for us.

Comfort is also defined as a feeling of relief or encouragement. One of my main goals in life is to understand others. To relate and to share. Life on this earth is full of trial and worry; when we know others who either share our experiences or love us enough to weather the storms with us, we are comforted by their presence. We feel – dare I say – blessed by God, who gave us others who get us. We are encouraged by them to keep on keeping on. In turn, we encourage and promote others’ feelings of relief when we share our experiences with them.

The definition of comfort goes on: contented well-being. A satisfying or enjoyable experience. One that gives or brings comfort.

These are all things that God gives us. These are not bad things.

We can all swing the other way when it comes to comfort – we can ignore the needs of others because they don’t fit into the schedule for the day, for our lives. I’m certainly not promoting this level of comfort that cocoons us away from others. Although sometimes it’s tempting.

But when we look at what God does for us, we can’t help but want to do this for others, to share his glory and goodness and our faith – how did we get here? Look - I am just like you, scared and unsure and uncomfortable of my purpose here. But God shows me, and he will show you, too. It isn’t always easy and enjoyable, but I have learned to seek him during the hard times, and he has – impossibly – made them comfortable. He has comforted me in my grief, and he will do that for you.

Comfort is not a bad thing in this life, when seen from a godly perspective. We can use what God gave us to comfort others, building relationships and being a light for him. It might not always be comfortable to reach out, but when we know that we are being used by God to bring a feeling of ease and contentment to others? There’s not much better than that.

Dear God,
You have comforted my heart and my soul and my mind many times over.
I seek to pass this care onto others who come into my life.
Please give me the opportunities to share your comfort.
Thank you. Amen.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

No Time for Planning

Ask anyone on the cusp of a major life decision when they’re going to take the leap, and you might hear one of the following:

I’m not quite there yet.

I’m not ready.

I have to get my ducks in a row.

The planning stage is still in effect, the time for execution not yet arrived.

I get it. I say it when I’m buying time before taking the plunge in any direction. Often my reasons for putting things off to the future are because of procrastination instead of planning, but let’s not split hairs.

Sometimes, the great leap into the unknown with no planning involved can be magic. For all of the times I’ve said “I’m not ready yet – I’ve got to prepare,” I’ve said at least as many times “What the heck – let’s do this!”

And that’s why I have two children.

Some things, when aren’t planned, work out beautifully.

Many life circumstances happen whether or not we are ready. Taking pains to plan our next move are wasted when a timeline is sped up or eliminated. During these times, we have a choice to go with what happens and embrace a new situation, or fight against it and spin our wheels.

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One day Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. There he saw Simon and his brother Andrew. They were throwing a net into the lake. They were fishermen. “Come and follow me,” Jesus said. “I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Then Jesus walked a little farther. As he did, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat preparing their nets. Right away he called out to them. They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men. Then they followed Jesus.

Mark 1:16-20 

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Can you imagine leaving your job instantly to follow some dude walking down the street who called you to him? That’s exactly what these disciples did. They were successful business owners, too, not a couple of jackwagons out casting a line into a pond on their day off. They certainly had plans to keep their fishing business thriving, and they left it all to follow Jesus. And, by the way, the life of a disciple wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows, either. It was hard times.

And they embraced it.

This lesson isn’t lost on me. Embracing what comes my way is better than fighting it in the long run. Life changes when plans shift, and if we allow it, resilience kicks in and we figure out how to handle our new situation. Sometimes we drag ourselves through it kicking and screaming, but that’s no way to live. We learn more and do better when we make the best out of what we are given.

And if we believe in God, we just might see his hand in every step we take.

I believe that God has called me to do certain things in this life. He created my path – one that I can’t see clearly, but I can navigate it with his help. The decisions I make come from past choices, and he guides me according to them.

Sometimes I’ve planned these choices, been ready for them. Sometimes, not so much. Some of the outcomes from these choices are wonderful, expected.

Sometimes, not so much.

But along this path, one thing is certain: I am learning about who God is, and who he made me to be. Not who I want to be, not always who I’ve planned to be.

When Jesus calls us, we might not have time to plan or figure out how to follow him – we just follow him. With his help, everything falls into place and our actions are right. No amount of earthly planning makes up for the perfection of God’s will and his glorifying love. 

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Sleeping Warrior

In the middle of the night, when I sometimes wake for the bathroom, a drink of water, a sudden noise, a change in temperature, or for no reason whatsoever, my mind wanders.

It lands on all the things that plague me, the little doubts and worries that pick and poke at me during daylight hours but that are normally dissipated by strong reason and rationalization, confidence and assuredness. When I have all my faculties, and I can clearly choose not to sweat the small things.

It could be a financial concern, a strained relationship, something I said that might be construed as offensive, something coming up that I am not ready to face, all the work I need to do the next day – these are the things that I think of late at night when my mind is open and vulnerable.

Years ago these things would keep me up all night. I would stew and worry and think and think and think – all to no avail. Nothing can be done in the wee hours, no solution carried out while the world is sleeping. The idea that nothing could be done right then would be added to my list of worries.

It's not like that so much anymore. Though these thoughts still spring to mind upon waking, I have grown enough to be able to banish these thoughts more readily.

I realize that Satan parades these things across my mind when I am weak and prone to attack. He preys when I am weak – chooses the parts of me that are exposed – to strike at first.

The realization makes me angry – how dare he do this? I have done nothing to deserve his attacks. I am not in a war here. Why doesn’t he pick on a terrible person, someone who brazenly lives with no shame or fear or conscience, someone who is more easily destroyed because of the choices he or she makes? I’m just living my life, making errors like everyone else – I am not so special.

But I am special. I am God’s child. I am a warrior, even when on my back, groggy and soft and at my most vulnerable.

Satan has picked off the weak already. They are of no concern to him, and easy prey. He will fight viciously for my soul, battling it out in my room – in my mind – in the middle of the night. He relishes the fight, because he knows I am hard-won. If he can get to me, he has won a mighty victory.

In those moments soon after Satan tries to assume power over my mind, I fight back. Not with fists or weapons, but with prayer. I turn from plaguing thoughts and pray to God to take them. I tag in God by throwing at him the cares and concerns that the devil tries to burden me with, and ask him for my next move. And just like that, I am protected.

In the middle of the night, when I am weak, I can still fight. I can summon the name of God and thank him for all he has done. Satan has no power when compared to the power that God wields in my life. God fights for me, alongside me, before me, and after me – I believe this wholeheartedly.

When I eventually fall asleep after Satan's attack, my last thought is on God’s goodness.  My faith is strengthened for another day; this particular battle has been won.



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