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.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Keeping Hope Alive

“In everything [even the storms, italics mine] you are enriched by Him.”  I Corinthians 1:5

Are you weary tender heart?
Be glad of pain.
In sorrow sweetest virtues grow, as flowers in rain.
God watches, and you will have sun,
When clouds their perfect work have done.  
___Lucy Larcom, Streams in the Desert

Nearly a year ago now the clouds began to descend.  There had been a few squalls, but nothing like this.  The dark, destructive storm cloud spread over us and relentlessly rained down the unexpected and undesired.  For the past ten months or so now there has been one hardship, one difficulty, one blow after another.  It has tried its best to beat us down in its destructive wake.  But even the rumblings and thunderings have been a comfort; even the fierce winds are soothing; even the sharp lightnings have spoken peace to our hearts...because we are sheltered.  We are safe in the care of our God.  That assurance has not lessened the impact of the sudden and unexpected set of circumstances we found ourselves in, and not due to any choice of our own.  But then things often happen that are beyond our control, especially as it relates to the choices of others that directly affect us, and that sting is an especially nasty one.

I remember talking on occasion with my Dad (I call him Diddy) when something would engine would blow in a car, someone lost a job, someone has cancer and he would calmly say, “Sug (pronounced shug, short for sugar!), it’s just one of those things.”  He wasn’t being nonchalant or unfeeling.  He was just saying in few words that life happens.  There are some things that just come with living this life and we’re better off to embrace it for what it is and trust God through it rather than resist it or resent it or try to control it in someway.  

That dark cloud?  We lost over half our income in a very unexpected, cutthroat manner.  Just like that, ten years callously thrown in our face. But oh we have seen the hand of God at work in it all, protecting, providing, guiding, sustaining, directing.  Just like Joseph of old in the Scripture we can say, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).  And there has been a lot of good, glimmers of His light in the dark cloud, reassuring us of His presence.  One of those is the fact that my mother-in-law is still with us.  Since December we have been to doctor’s, specialists visits, tests, hospital ER’s, only to have an ulcer finally perforate leaving her septic.  A four-week hospital stay, another four-week nursing home stay followed.  She’s 82.  I could not leave her alone in a hospital, traumatized over an hour away.  Roger came practically every day.  She is home now, but still having therapy 2-3 times a week.  Daily care for her and oversight of her medications, continued doctor’s visits is ongoing.  

We’ve also been able to see a family business come to fruition during this time.  My son has been praying for some time and sensed the time was right to take the plunge and take oversight of Top Knot Coffee and Artisan Shop.  It’s alpaca themed, an expansion of the farm (that some might think we would have lost by now, and we’re very aware of that very real possibility as the storm continues; but so far God has chosen otherwise and we are grateful and humbled).  But even in all the excitement and the demands of getting the shop up and going, Dan and Steph lost their 7th child.  Yet another completely unexpected heartbreak.  Asher Lee was birthed stillborn April 24th.  We have grieved and cried, and seen God give great grace and comfort to keep us moving forward even in the heartbreak.  

Ever tried to wait out a storm only to feel like it’s never going to end?  Well, not done yet!  On the farm there has been one equipment failure after another with limited to no funds for repairs, leaving my husband heavy with the weight of seeing our beautiful farm somewhat a mess.  But even in this, the raw beauty shines through.  Yes, there are parts that are not neatly landscaped.  The flower beds are a bit overgrown, but the animals are healthy, the pastures are green, and a garden is growing.  

Financially our resources have dwindled, especially with the start up of the Coffee shop...but it IS started, and with no debt.  Dan left a stable income to be the proprietor, and why not?  Three incomes down?  All the more opportunity for God to show Himself very real, and very involved in our lives.  If we fail, it won’t be because we didn’t try or because God is not faithful.  It will be because His plans for us involve something different that He has not chosen to show us...just yet!  One of the key thoughts for us in all of this that has helped us keep our eyes on Christ and off of ourselves (pity parties are such a waste!) is, that this is not about us.  It really isn’t.  We’re involved, yes.  We’re staying in His Word, praying, attempting to honor Christ in our situation and we know He will care for us.  This is about what He chooses for us at any given time, and believe me, I am constantly throwing myself at His feet and leaning hard on His promises, allowing His great grace to wash over me.  If not , the flesh takes over way too often and the emotions get all out of control….and God is limited.  

We’re not sure where it’s all going, where we will end up, how it will all turn out.  What we do know is that the storm will end.  We belong to Christ and we can trust Him.  That’s not a flippant acceptance of something I can’t change, or a “Christian cliche or platitude” (I hate those).  That is a reality that changes me and keeps me tender, and allows God to continue to work.  It releases the power of Christ to accomplish His plan and purpose in my storm.  And let me say this….this is “my storm”.  I do not get involved in the business of comparing storms.  Oh there are so many hurting people out there.  I can see people reeling from the devastation a dark storm cloud has left.  People I love, and even people I don’t know, dealing with death and loss, crushed relationships, poverty, sickness, and the babies...the babies I have prayed for lately that are suffering from complications at birth; the parents making heart-wrenching decisions.  But I trust them to Christ also.  I offer compassion, not judgment.  Help, not those useless platitudes, which means sometimes, nothing is the best thing to say. Just pray and be available.  They don’t even have to know you are doing it!  

When the storms come, and they will, lean hard on Jesus.  He is faithful.  He is strong.  He is sweet and ever so tender as a loving forever friend is.  He’s not necessarily keeping all the bad from happening--no, a friend can’t do that.  But He is close, breathing His precious promises into my soul, keeping hope alive.  

God watches, and you will see the sun!  

Some Bible passages that I have held onto lately:  
“Let us your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful.  Yes, make our efforts successful!”  Psalm 90: 16-17

“And now Lord, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family.  May it be a promise that will last forever. And may your name be established and honored forever.”  I Chronicles 17: 23-24

“We put our hope in the Lord.  He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.”  Psalm 33: 20-22

Friday, January 27, 2017

Dare to Hope

I listened as Roger spoke from the Bible book of Lamentations about the man Jeremiah’s heartbreak. What a sad commentary on the collapse of a culture.  It also intrigued me that the Hebrew name for this book was simply “How”. It made sense. Yes, Jeremiah walked the streets of Jerusalem, the city he loved, and “lamented”, grieved terribly and at times wept uncontrollably over its condition.  At every turn, all he could see was destruction, devastation, and despair.  And it didn’t have to be this way.  It could have been strong, beautiful, thriving...if only.

How lonely the city that was full of people, she that was great among the nations...begins the first chapter; how the pristine palaces are now in ruins, the women now crying out in the streets for their children faint with hunger as prosperity fades to poverty; how the gold has dimmed, continues chapter 4, as the glory of the great center of abundance and ease is now a disgrace.    “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?”  

I couldn’t help but consider the plight of many nations today, the horror that many are living on a daily basis-- inhumane cruelties, poverty and sickness, raids and bombings, child labor, sex trafficking, the economic collapse of whole countries. And I can’t help but consider the evils of my own society that seem to be growing more commonplace by the day.  In my own community, drug-ridden streets and drug infested schools, children disgustingly abused and abandoned, people jobless, homeless, and almost daily reports of stabbings, beatings, shootings, and murder, as violence competes with sanity as the only option for solving conflict.  So much anger, hatred, hopelessness.  The moral decay is despairing at times as cheating and stealing, deception and dishonesty take a back seat to integrity.  There is no shame as the sexual appetite seeks to be satisfied in every kind of relationship imaginable.  It’s reflected in the statistics of those millions searching the internet daily for porn, the abortion of unknown millions, the ravaging of sexually transmitted diseases.  If my grandmother were alive she would say, “The whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket!”

How did we get here?  How did this happen?  To offer Truth to those seeking answers nearly cost Jeremiah his life.  To shut him up, he was thrown in a deep, wet pit and left to die.  Even in their despicable condition, an over-riding sense of pride and self-will kept most from hearing his message or accepting any responsibility for their situation.  It was too easy to cast blame.  It was too easy to feel entitled, undeserving.  But God made it clear with His Word through Jeremiah, “Jerusalem has grievously sinned...the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.”  Can it really be that simple?  

Yes, they were being held accountable for their sin and their relationship with the God that created them.  And so are we.  

If there is one thing I want my children and grandchildren to have is hope.  I want my extended family, my friends to have hope.  I want that child that I see flash across my facebook feed that needs a loving family to have hope.  I want that teen that has fled a wretched, confused homelife to have hope.  I want that elderly gentleman on the bench in the park, alone, to have hope.  I want that family I attend church with that’s struggling to keep it together to have hope.  I want the single mom, the exploited dehumanized woman, to have hope.  I want the man that just wants a job to take care of his family, to have hope!  Yes things are bad.  Yes times are turbulent.  Yes people are hurting, and there are hateful and hurtful people in this world, downright evil.  And if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself focusing on the division and the hate and the wrong, and the despairing...instead of the love of Christ and the hope He provides.  

It was almost too much for Jeremiah.  Almost.  

“My soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is, so I say, ‘my endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord’….But, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.”  

Keep looking around and it all may be too much.  It’s dark, it’s negative, it’s depressing. And a hope in humanity is a fleeting and false hope. Choose instead to look to God and dare to hope.  Christ offers real and lasting hope; it can be yours.  Choose to see the goodness of God as it evidences itself in the kindnesses, the courage and sacrifice of many. Cheer and promote honesty and truth, goodwill and good works! Champion love and right!  Be light in darkness!  Choose to be a messenger of hope.  Remind yourself often, God’s love never fails. Every day is a new chance to start over fresh as His mercies wash over you.  His faithfulness is great, so His Words are binding and true! With Him there is hope.  

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!  Let us lift up our hearts and
Hands to God in heaven.  Lamentations 3:41

Does someone you know need a message of hope?