Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Struggle is Real

The last day of Summer.  I was sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee, contemplating how quickly things can change. One hot day in July, in an instant, I was in a new role.  My mother-in-law fell. Just last year I was challenged to care for her through two major surgeries, staying with her and juggling work for several weeks each time as she transitioned back home. But now it was clear she could not live alone any longer. The decision was made to move her in with us.  But, this meant our son and his family that currently lived with us would need to move into her home. Major adjustment and transition for everyone. It was just across the driveway, but it may as well have been 500 miles for what it involved!! Well, that’s an exaggeration of course. But it was definitely an undertaking to move two families at once and made quite the spectacle at times as we drove everything from beds to boxes across the yard in the back of our gator. As if that wasn’t humorous in itself, It took the dogs and the two younger grandkids a couple weeks to figure out what had actually taken place and where they actually lived!  

And now, here we are.  We’re all settled and the arrangement is working very well. I am not back to work full-time yet but doing a little here and there part-time.  So in the last four months we’ve made a major ministry move, moved Mom in to provide round-the-clock care, and my work situation changed drastically which in turn affected our financial situation as well.  Just when you think life is getting somewhat routine and boring….umh, that was sarcasm by the way.

I’ve found myself struggling a bit to just sit back and well, not do much.  And I’m used to doing a lot, all the time. Being home everyday, and as Mom has improved,  I’ve actually been able to do a lot of things I haven’t had time for before like organizing closets, cleaning out drawers, sorting through stuff (you know, all that stuff that can accumulate that can actually be thrown out if given any attention) and, sitting on my front porch sipping coffee.  So there I was, sitting and sipping, praying, and trying to process it all. I turned my head and wow, the most beautiful sunburst was peeking through the trees. I couldn’t pull my gaze away. But I didn’t just see sunshine. I saw rays of hope bursting through the morning mist. I prayed a prayer of praise for the awesome reminder to keep the eternal perspective, and asked the Lord to just help me stay in step with Him through all the changes.   

The Struggle is Real

Don’t lose sight of the eternal in the middle of the NOW struggle.  

The “now” struggle is very present and pressing.  It is real. But, so is the eternal. So is Jesus!

Yes, Jesus is very real and very present in your present struggle.  He is ready to calm your heart, quiet your fears and help you rest in His unfailing love for you.  

In your confusion, as you are hurting, as you wonder what the future holds and what your next step will be...be confident He is loving you still.  He has not abandoned you to yourself or your circumstances.

Whisper His name.  Let your heart sing if your lips cannot.  He will fill you with His peace and the overwhelming sense of His purpose in it all, even if He does not immediately (or ever) reveal to you what that purpose is.  

It is enough.  HE is enough. That is the essence of hope in the struggle.  

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18*

“Let your unfailing love surround us Lord, for our hope is in you alone.  
Psalm 33:22*

“Jesus...our Hope”  2 Timothy 1:1*


Friday, May 11, 2018

Getting a Grip

"I just need something tangible to hold on to."

The woman that spoke these words was raising three children by herself after losing her pastor/husband to cancer.  She was hurting, and searching for answers.  In trying to encourage her to hold onto her faith, the well-meaning Christian cliches she was getting from some weren't helping.  The reminder to "just hold onto your faith" wasn't enough.  What that really meant was now being questioned.  Thankfully, there were those that came alongside her in her pain, in her anger, in her confusion, and just "did stuff", living out the Truth she knew.  The tangible evidence of God's love expressed in human action became a guiding light as people did yard work, went to her children's ballgames, took a teenage daughter shopping, brought ice cream late at night and pigged out on the sofa with her.  It allowed her a chance to grieve, to breathe, to question without being judged, to find her faith path again, to be patiently guided back to God's Word and the truths that brought comfort, calmed fears, gave wisdom...answers, and peace, all the eternal blessings of being a child of God.    

"You have endowed him with eternal blessings, and given him the joy of your presence." Psalm 21:6

This is the epic essence of faith...to live experiencing eternal blessings, to know the joy of Christ's presence as an always present reality and how that impacts my daily life. Eternal blessings...not what we would label just good things, but things of eternal value.  These things are not tangible, but they are just as real.  Things like unexplained peace and joy in loss; wisdom that enables you to "just know", even against the odds; a calm assurance in what seems an impossible situation.  It's about living in the heavenlies, having an eternal perspective, seeing God at work in every circumstance, and rejecting mere happenstance.  From the mundane to the magnificent of this life it all reflects the Savior's hand and His heart for His creation.  We just have to strive to see it with His eyes, His patience, His hope, the Hope of eternity that brings meaning to this madness.  And sometimes it takes a tangible expression of His love for the eternal to be recognized.  

As eternity grips the heart, directing the focus back to the heavenlies, the earthly resolve is strengthened.  You can trust.  You can move forward.  You can wait.  You can let go of what you cannot control.  You can laugh.  He wants to give us eternal blessings that guide the heart and give hope and meaning to this life.  It is powerful and empowering to grasp the gravity of the eternal.  This life was never intended to be just an existence, but rather a purposeful passing of time and relationship, with God and others, full of meaningful (and fun!) experiences. 

"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to Him.  Psalm 24:1

Not everyone understands, acknowledges, or accepts this great truth.  They don't know the Creator God in a personal way through the saving grace of Jesus.  Some know it but lose sight of it in the moment.  But He knows them.  He knows, and He loves.  He works through people, through situations and circumstances, through His creation, through His Word, to draw our focus back to those eternal blessings...what really matters and gives greater significance to the life we are living.  

Are you seeing something of eternal blessings in your daily routine? in the hearts of your children as they play?  in painful or challenging circumstances?  in relationships?  in your physical surroundings?Take a moment to seek God, asking for a glimpse of the eternal in this moment, this situation, this day.  

Get a grip on the eternal.  It will change your today.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

Determined to Love

Waking up to a snow day today.

The battle of the emotions can be a fierce one at times.  Thankfully most days are good ones, but some days the emotions conquer.  I read last night of love, and went to sleep asking the Lord to just help me love better, and more like He loves. 

So maybe the snow day is just what God did for me today.  It's a beautiful reminder of His blanket of love covering me, cleansing me; a reminder of His great grace covering all and making all "whiter than snow".

Colossians 4: 5-6 says to "Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone." 

That's definitely a challenge when the emotions are running high.  But it's not impossible with God's help, when you love the way He loves. Consider the opportunity you have with your family, your loved ones, the person in the long line in the grocery store...a treasured and timely opportunity, not one to be wasted with hurtful words and harmful attitudes, or trivialized with carelessness.  Moments matter.  They become a lifetime.  Treat them with significance, knowing you might be the light or hope someone needs in that moment. 

And if you blow it?  Allow God to deal with your own heart first, finding His readily available love and forgiveness.  Then, fix it if you can.  And if you can't, do your best to learn from it and go on, stronger and more gracious and caring because of it.

Determine to just love. 

"Someday, after mastering the winds,
the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness
for God the energies of love, and then,
for a second time in the history of the world,
man will have discovered fire."
                                     -----Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Daily Thing

“Praise the Lord, praise God our Savior!  For each day He carries us in His arms.”   Psalm 68:19

On any given day I may fail miserably and feel dejected, allowing those feelings to control me and defeat me.  But knowing the Savior carries me each day gives hope.  It means each day is a new chance for my daily experience to be full of joy and expectancy.  It means not living in that dejection, but rising out of it and moving forward.  And I don’t have to make this happen on my own.  Christ does it.  He carries me.  

And I allow Him to.  I give myself to prayer, and time in His Word.  And I wait for Him to work.  Even on the darkest days when I don’t have it in me to pray, I know the Spirit of God is praying for me, taking my heart cries to the Savior (Romans 8: 26-27, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”) I also know when I can’t even bring myself to pick up a Bible, He takes the Word that is hidden in my heart and puts it to work, making it a reality as the promises come alive in me, refreshing my soul, restoring my spirit.  God does this!  

Daily, He gives us what we need to live, love, forgive, overcome, wait, or whatever the situation calls for.  Daily, He gives courage to face the demons of doubt and failure and move us upward and onward to a deeper state of grace.  Daily, He takes the weaknesses and failures that would so easily cripple us and makes them the very things that strengthen us, and the resolve to trust Him all the more.  Daily, He takes the tendencies to be self-assured and arrogant and shows me the incredible heights of humility.  

This walk of faith is a life journey, but we live it a day at a time.  There are bright days and bad days.  Don’t let the bad days set you back or have you believing it’s over.  Just remember, “each day” He carries us. Get up each morning, regardless of what yesterday held, with praise on your lips and gratitude in your heart declaring, “this is a new day!”  Let the Lord be in charge and carry you where He will.  You’ll be amazed where it takes you.  

Keep walking, it’s a daily thing.    

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Facetime with my Friend

I woke at 5:10 that morning, strongly impressed to spend some extra time in my Bible "seeking the face of God". I had been reading a George McDonald novel before bed and that particular phrase in a character conversation had stayed with me. Unable to fall back asleep, I grabbed my phone, my Bible, fixed a cup of coffee and headed to my quiet place. Since my devotional app is on my phone I grabbed it first. Immediately I saw notifications from Facebook and without really thinking I clicked. No sooner had I started to scroll and a thought broadsided me and stopped me mid-swipe,  as strongly as if God had spoken audibly.

 "I said seek MY face, not Facebook." 

Okay. I have learned over the years on this faith walk to not disregard these gentle promptings of the Spirit of God. After all, walking with God is about my very real and personal relationship with Christ, or it should be. And what kind of relationship stays strong when one side doesn't listen!

I had recently noticed that on occasion, especially when in the car, my husband would be saying something to me but because I was texting, surfing, or on Facebook, it might be a moment before I even heard him. It was frustrating for him and wrong for me to make him have to repeat himself. He deserved my undivided attention. So, I began listening more determinedly, and intentionally putting my phone down when he started to say something. Wow.  What had we been missing because he saw me absorbed on my phone and decided not to bother?

This morning?  Here I was doing the same thing to God! I knew in my heart the prompting to rise early and spend time reading my Bible and praying, had come from Him. I was going to need what His Word would say to me today.  Thankful He got my attention, I did not have to think about what I would have missed otherwise.

Two lessons learned; first, how easily we are distracted and drawn away.  Just like my relationship with my husband is strongest when we are communicating, unselfishly and considerately giving each other our attention, my relationship with Christ needs my determined and intentional effort to see it flourish, staying strong and close to Him. It's too easy to just drift, only to find yourself far away from each other.  Christ knows me so well, loves me so much, and as my personal Savior and Friend, desires time with me...quality time, my undivided attention, when I get to know Him better, when I am strengthened and encouraged, given the rest and peace my tumultuous soul so desperately needs in the crazy and chaotic world we live in. The 2nd lesson was the one He had for me in the first place.  It was the reason He stirred me to get up and meet Him in the quiet of the morning.   I would have missed out had I engaged in Facebook instead of "facetime" with my Savior, not leaving time for Him before having to plunge into my day.  

The passage my devotional took me to was three short verses in 2 Kings 4: 42-43.  Someone brought loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn to Elisha and the sons of the prophets.  It was a small amount compared to the need, but Elisha instructed the man to prepare it for all 100 or so of them.  The man was astounded to think this small gift would feed so many but did as he was instructed.  Elisha's response?  "for thus says the Lord, they shall eat and have some left."  Somehow over the years this miracle had escaped me.  I did not remember it.  I was thrilled to read as if for the first time that God had so wonderfully and abundantly met this need for His children. It was a reminder of His promised provision and care for His own, at a time when I needed that reminder.   

God knew I needed the reminder.  And He was waiting for time with me to reassure me through His Word that He had everything under control.  I just needed to "seek His face", pursue Him, be attentive to what He had to say, in one of those moments when seeing His face is all that mattered.    

"You have said, 'Seek my face.'  My heart says to You, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek."  Psalm 27:8

Facetime anyone?  

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Labor Day Challenge

This past Labor Day was an especially enjoyable one.  It was quiet, restful, and just a beautiful and warm late Summer day.  And it gave me a chance to think.  

The question was posed the day before, “Have you ever read anything in Scripture that was just difficult to understand?  Like, it didn’t make sense or, maybe you understood perfectly, but accepting it as something that should be a part of your faith-walk seemed impossible?”  

Yes.  Definitely yes.  Almost immediately several scenarios came to mind.  They loomed large before me and I had to admit I had struggled with accepting the truth of God’s Word by faith concerning some matters.  That’s the nature of human ideology and emotion.  And to a degree, those struggles were greater because in each situation I was impacted personally.  Would it strain a relationship with someone I loved to share what the Bible teaches about this?  Would my circumstances change for the worse if I put this truth to the test? Could God orchestrate the outcome for this situation in a way that makes more sense to me than the way He biblically says to handle it?  

God inspired the apostle Paul to teach and write concerning some of these difficult things, and Peter refers to them in his letter.  
“...just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
As he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.  There are some
things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their
own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”   (2 Peter 3:16)
Peter admits that Paul’s letters contained some things that were hard to understand!  Peter says this!  So I am in good company!

So, the question now is, what to do about it.  How do I handle these “hard to understand things”, these biblical concepts, principles and directives that I don’t understand, or seem harsh or irrelevant, or impossible to practice?  Well, there is of course the option that Peter explains some chose...twist what you don’t understand, or refuse to accept by faith from a completely loving and faithful God, and do so to your own destruction spiritually, and perhaps even in other ways as your faith-walk takes a turn away from God toward self.  

The better option?  The better option leads to the vibrant and ever-growing abundant life in Christ. The  better option avoids “being led away with the error of the wicked, [falling] from your own steadfastness”.  The final verse states:
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be
glory both now and forever. Amen.”

First, just keep growing in grace.  Grace is what God gives and makes available to us just because He loves us, along with His wisdom, guidance, protection, provision, joy, resolve, contentment, purpose, peace, forgiveness, value!  Give grace a chance to steal over your spirit and smooth out the rough places, the places that Truth grates against.  Tell the Lord you are willing to trust Him with these hard things and obey His Word even when you don’t understand.  Rely on grace to see your struggle with Truth bring you closer to Christ and more solid and stable in your faith.  

Second, just keep growing in the knowledge of your Savior.  The more you know of Jesus, the more your understanding will grow.  We get to know Him better through His Word.  The Scripture reveals the heart of God.  He wants to give us discernment and understanding.  We grow when we commit to accept by faith what He says to be true and what we can’t necessarily understand.  

Here’s an example of someone that had difficulty with understanding and accepting God’s design because of his own ideas.  Jonah of old just could not accept that God could possibly want the people of Ninevah to experience His forgiveness and salvation.  They were a savage and wicked people, known to have committed gross atrocities against their conquests.  They were known enemies of Jonah’s people.  It did not make any sense that God would call him to deliver this message, providing them an opportunity to turn to God before His judgment came on them. God never delivers judgment without first giving a warning.  But Jonah made the whole thing about him...he was self-focused, and it really was all about God’s love being extended to people that Jonah really didn’t care for or want to have anything to do with.  God gave Jonah the chance to be in on this great event, and even though Jonah did deliver God’s message (by way of a stay in the belly of a whale!), he missed out on the joy and blessing of it.  He chose to sulk instead.  

This is what Peter was explaining in 2 Peter 3.  Something like the situation with Ninevah that was “a hard thing” for Jonah, may just be a hard thing for us as well.  God is so loving and patient.  He desires that people turn to Him in faith, accepting the sacrifice He made for them.  He went to great lengths, giving His very life in an unbelievably horrific way, so that we would not have to carry the burden of our own sin to the death and hell it would bring. And this gift, this love, is extended to anyone and everyone.  It’s not about what someone has or hasn’t done.  It’s about how much God values a soul. His love knows no boundaries.  That’s the problem.  Ours does.  We find it extremely difficult to love when it does not seem to be  deserved, or won’t be reciprocated.  And more and more we see human life not being valued as it should be.  

That’s just one example of some of the “hard things” in Scripture.  What I do know and understand is that it is best to trust an all-knowing God with these matters, be grateful for His grace, and just continue to get to know Him more.  We can leave the hard things with Him, trusting His great and loving plan and purpose.  

There’s no need to “labor” over it!    

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mere Mortals and Maniacs

Psalm 56:4  “I praise God for what He has promised.  I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”  

Mere mortals.  Really?  What can mere mortals do to me?  Mere mortals can actually do quite a bit of damage.  Us “mere mortals” can be selfish, shameful, and sometimes senselessly cruel.  

Just today I read of two incidents in two entirely different places, one not so very far away, one on the other side of the world.  There are no words to describe the barbaric, atrocious behavior.  To think that human-beings can behave the way they do is unsettling, especially to other human-beings.  It is sickening and appalling to read of burnings and beheadings and then, of hatred and anger-ridden violence at the cost of human life and injury.  

Don’t let the thought of what mere mortals can do be the focus here in this passage, as it was for me at first glance.  Neither misunderstand the Scripture to teach that no harm can ever come to the believer.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  Evil exists.  Atrocities and tragedies occur.  But please understand.  This is not a question of the greatness and goodness of God as some might believe.  Rather, because of maniacal humanity, depraved human existence that has forgotten and forsaken the One that created them, our eyes must be turned to God, not man.  The key to managing in this madness is to NOT FEAR BUT TRUST, and to praise Him for the promises He has given us to claim and cling to.  

We should not and cannot live in fear.   Be wise, yes.  Exercise caution, yes.  But putting our trust in God, the Only One that can truly make a difference, is the key.  Holding onto the promises of His faithful and trustworthy Word gives us the ammunition we need to combat the fear battle that Satan would wage in our lives.  

If you’re like me, these type of reports also give rise to anger.  The promises of God quiet my heart and turn my thoughts back to prayer and praise.  I will certainly not be able to eradicate this kind of evil this side of heaven. I cannot always eliminate pain or avoid tragedy.  But I can pray and praise and trust.  I can spread love, not hate.  I can be kind, considerate, respectful, compassionate, not arrogant, crude and uncaring.  I can be peaceable, not contentious.  I can stand firm in the Truth of the Bible without bashing it over other people’s heads, allowing the Spirit of God to work in hearts.  

We live in a fearful world.  A crazy, fickle, violent world with very real and pressing fears to contend with from health concerns to financial stability, from safety to sanity, from loneliness to job security to national security.  But don’t feed that fear.  What you feed will grow.  Feed your faith.  Let faith guard you and guide you, faith in a loving and good God that can calm our fears,  and manage the madness all around us.  

I’m just a mere mortal that chooses to trust God.