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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