Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who do you need Him to be today?

.... because He is who you need Him to be.

He is the Bearer of Burdens
~ "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." ~
Psalm 52:22

He is Kindness
~ "But let him who boasts, boast in this:
that he understands and knows Me;
that I am the Lord, who exercises
kindness, justice and righteousness on earth
for in these I delight." ~
Jeremiah 9:24

He is Everlasting
~ "Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting,
You are God." ~
Psalm 90:2

He is the Rock
~ "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
my God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." ~
Psalm 18:2

He is the Vine
~ "I am the vine, you are the branches.  
He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit;
for without Me you can do nothing." ~
John 15:5

He is Longsuffering
~ "The Lord is slow to anger,
abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion." ~
Numbers 14:18

He is Sovereign
~ "Let them know that You, whose name is the Lord - 
that You alone are the Most High over all the earth." ~
Psalm 83:18


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What do these two things have in common?

Scarlett O'Hara and Calvin Coolidge.

Go ahead, muse on that for a few minutes.  I'll wait.

I'll give you a hint:  they are each known for one of these quotes:

 A. "I can't think about that today.  I'll think about that tomorrow."

 B. "If you see ten troubles coming down the road, 
you can be sure nine of them will run into the ditch before they reach you."

C. "Tomorrow will worry about its own things."

I'm sure you all know, but A is the lovely Miss O'Hara, and B is the wise Calvin Coolidge.  C, of course, is Jesus Christ.  ;)  Matthew 6:34.    But who knew how biblical Calvin Coolidge and Scarlett O'Hara were?  Well, maybe Coolidge more so than Scarlett....

A few nights ago, as we were getting into bed, my Wonderful Hubby said to me, "So, what are we going to do about.... ?"  regarding a dilemma that we might be facing soon.  And as soon as he asked that question, I realized, I hadn't even thought about that possibility.  And immediately, my chest got tight, and my heart palpitated a little.  At one time, a question like that, right before bedtime, would have ruined my whole night's sleep.  But I gave the wondering to God, and a few minutes later, I was completely relaxed.  I didn't know the answer to the question, any more than I had ten minutes before, but I also wasn't worried about it.  "We'll figure it out when the time comes.  God has a plan." Those were my thoughts.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I would let myself be overwhelmed by all that was ahead of me, whether it was my calendar, or a decision I was going to have to make.  Gradually, I began to have a more "one day at a time" approach.  I found that I could spend all week wondering how I was going to get both kids where they needed to be on Saturday, and then when Saturday came, it would rain, Amazing Boy's baseball would be postponed, and all of a sudden, my conflict was gone.  Yet I had spent far too much time worrying about it.  Now, I try to deal with what's right in front of me.  Always knowing, of course, what time Saturday's game is, and when the library books are due, etc, but not worrying.  And when that day comes, I'll pray, make the best decision I can, pull it off, and afterwards, know that I did the best I could.

The truth of the matter is, my days are in His hands.  If I give each one to Him, I can trust that He will do something with it.  If I try to handle tomorrow, when I should be living today, then I'm not trusting Him to handle tomorrow when it comes.

I might admire Calvin Coolidge's wisdom, while I roll my eyes at Scarlett's melodrama, but again I see that there are reminders of His Word in many places, if I choose to see them.

~ "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, 
and all things you need will be added unto you.  
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, 
for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." ~
Matthew 6:32-34

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God Bless You

"Lord, did he not say to me...?"
Genesis 20:5

When I was little, we had a book by Dr Seuss called "Because a Little Bug Went Ka-CHOO!"  It was a funny little story about cause and effect.  A small bug sneezes, which causes a seed to drop.  Because that seed dropped, a worm got mad, because the worm got mad... etc, etc.  In the end, the circus parade going through town becomes chaos, and all because a little bug sneezed.

I got to thinking about this book today, for two reasons.  The first was a chat with my sister.  My sisters and I, and our families, went to Disneyland last Christmas vacation.  On December 27th.  Now, any Disneyland specialist, tourism expert, or Southern California resident will tell you that the week after Christmas is the worst time to go.  The crowds are crazy, the weather's iffy (even for beautiful sunny Southern California), and often there are rides shut down for winter maintenance.   We went several years ago, and I still have nightmares about long lines, whiny toddlers, and agoraphobic-claustrophobia (which is the worst kind!)

This time, it was almost the opposite.  We were able to do a lot of rides; we managed to keep everyone together as we walked through the park; and we snacked wisely so that we could indulge in a dinner to remember.

When my sister and I talked this morning about how much fun the day had been, she said she thought it was largely due to one thing:  my decision not to ride the first ride of the day.  It's not one of my favorites, so while the rest of our group were in line, she and I went and got the Fast Passes for all of us on another ride, making our reservation for later.  That set in motion the pattern for the day ~ wise and efficient use of our time.   It wasn't a major decision on my part; I just don't like that ride.  But it had an impact ~ in a good way ~ on everyone in our party.

This cause-and-effect idea came to me again today, while in the book of Genesis.  Chapter 20 tells the story of Abraham, traveling with his wife, Sarah.  They came into the kingdom of a man named Abimelech, where Abraham was certain he would be killed so that Abimelech could have Sarah for his wife.  So he lied, and told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister.  Sure enough, the king had Sarah sent to him, and God came to him in a dream that night, telling him the truth, and warning him not to touch Sarah.  Abimelech protested, "Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister'?"

God knew that the king had not meant to do anything wrong, and He allowed the king to return Sarah to Abraham, and escape punishment.  But Abraham's decision to lie had nearly resulted in another man's death.  Though Abimelech was not a believer, his behavior had been more righteous than Abraham's.

I am reminded of the effects our actions have on those around us ~ good and bad.  My response to this realization should be prayer and wisdom about my actions, and understanding and forgiveness about the actions of others.   Are our attitudes, words and actions bringing joy, lifting others, and pointing them to Him?  If not, then we are probably accomplishing the opposite.  And how do we react to the bad decisions or mistake of others?  If you find yourself in a chain reaction of bad consequences, like the bug who went "ker-choo!" then it's up to you to turn it around. You'll be amazed at the impact you can have.

~ "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.
And just as you want men to do to you, do unto them." ~
Luke 6:27-29, 31

Monday, March 28, 2011

A light to those in darkness

"God saw the light, that it was good; 
and God divided the light from the darkness."
Genesis 1:4

I love the challenge of God’s Word.  Martin Luther (I believe) said, “The Bible is shallow enough for an infant to wade in, but deep enough for an elephant to swim in.”   I think that’s a perfect description.  If you are new to the Bible, it can be read without being overwhelming.  And if you’ve been studying it for years, there is still more for you to learn; places where you can dig and find new treasures. 

And one of the ways I like to challenge myself, is to find God’s Word in unexpected places.  That’s what this blog is all about.  Everyday occurrences, like things someone has said, or even a book I’m reading that has nothing to do with God – where is He in those things?  Because He’s always in those things!

So for today, I asked my Amazing Boy to challenge me.   “Give me any topic,” I said, “and let me see if I can find God in that.” 

What did he say?  Well, if you know my Amazing Boy at all, you won’t be surprised.  He said, “Jedi.”

The first thing that occurred to me was the most obvious analogy in Star Wars ~ the battle between good and bad; between light and dark.  I remember when I was young, my family attended a church that was a hexagonal shape.   In the center of the church, the ceiling rose to a cupola, that was also hexagonal, and had windows on every side.  So every Sunday, there was one section of the church that was in full sunlight, and it was generally the section that people avoided, until it was the only place left to sit.   One morning the priest joked about how, even though we were Christians, and we were supposed to be choosing light, there were an awful lot of people who preferred to sit in the dark.   

The battle between light and darkness ~ in Star Wars and in life ~ is power.  The Jedi were Jedi because they chose the path of light, to grow in power, by helping others, even though the pathway of darkness was easier.   Anger and revenge are strong motivators, and would result in the power they desired, but at a price.

Now think about the Light ~ specifically Jesus, the Light of the World.   What was His motivation?  Not anger, not revenge.  At any time during His life on earth, He could have called forth an army of angels to do His bidding.   Jesus was the most powerful Man on the earth, but His motivation was Love.  

Therein lies the question ~ what is our motivation?  What is important to us?  Is it power, which takes the form of money, stature or elevating ourselves above others?  Or is it love, which takes the form of a servant, elevating others above ourselves?  Your answer to that question will tell you whether His force is with you or not!  :)

{To my sweet boy ~ There you go; hope you liked it!}

~ " You are all children of light and children of the day.
We are not of the night nor of darkness." ~
1 Thessalonians 5:5

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The work is hard, but you can't beat the pay

"From the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance."
Colossians 3:24

If there were a job description for your life, what would it be?  Not just what you do at your place of business, if you have one, but your whole life.  For instance, in my "job," I am responsible for loving, raising and teaching my kids; loving and supporting my husband; and maintaining our home.   In contrast, here's what the ad looked like when soldiers were needed for the American Revolution:
Brave, healthy, able-bodied 
and well-disposed young men

The pay was a "truly liberal and generous bounty of twelve dollars a year," along with "good and handsome clothing and all articles proper for his subsistence."  These men were also offered "a few happy years viewing the different parts of this beautiful continent, after which he may return home with his head covered with laurels."

In 1803, when Meriweather Lewis and William Clark were looking for men to accompany them on their expedition, here how their job description read:
Good hunters; stout; healthy
Unmarried men; accustomed to the woods
Capable of bearing bodily fatigue to a pretty considerable degree

The pay was $5 - $8 a month.

in 1860, the following ad for Pony Express riders appeared in a California newspaper:
Young, skinny, wiry fellows
Not over 18
Must be expert riders
Willing to risk death daily
Orphans preferred.

The wages were $25 a week. 

And in 1914, Captain Ernest Shackleton placed the following advertisement in a London paper, for a crew to cross the Antarctic continent:
Men wanted for hazardous journey
Bitter cold, long months of complete darkness
Constant danger; safe return doubtful

The wages?  Small.  Honor and recognition in the case of success.

God's job description for His children is concise:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself."  Please notice I said "concise," not "simple."  You can work at for a lifetime and still fall short.   Fortunately, He cares more about our efforts than our results.  He's looking for workers who are sincere, not perfect.  

And the wages?  The promises are almost overwhelming, and certainly too numerous to mention.  Eternal life in heaven... abundant life here on earth... peace that passes understanding... rest... forgiveness... blessings beyond measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over into your lap.  

Take Him up on it.  Give Him your best, and He will give you His.  You'll get the better end of the deal, I promise. 

~ "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, 
for great is your reward in heaven." ~
Matthew 5:12

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Turtles and Hedgehogs and Armadillos, oh my!

"a new creation"
2 Corinthians 5:17

Amazing Boy and I were reading one of the "Just So Stories" recently, in school.  This is a series of stories written in 1902, by British author Rudyard Kipling, that humorously imagine how certain animals came to be.  Two of the most famous are, "How the Camel Got His Hump" and "How the Leopard Got His Spots".   We were reading, "The Beginning of the Armadillos," and in this story, a turtle and a hedgehog are in danger of being eaten by a (not very bright) jaguar.  The turtle had the defense of swimming away, and the hedgehog had the defense of curling up in a prickly ball.   But then they overhear the jaguar's mother teaching him out to outsmart their defenses, so they decide to team up, and teach each other their defense.  Then they'll each have two.  But as they each learn the additional trait, it transforms them.  They become creatures who can both swim, and curl up on a ball.  They become armadillos.  The (not very bright) jaguar is completely perplexed by these creatures, and leaves them alone entirely.

Now, of course, the idea of one species evolving into another is ridiculous, but it did get me thinking about the idea of evolving.  I've always loved the idea that species can adapt to their surroundings, and that if longer beaks are going to enable birds to feed easier than the birds with the short beaks, then over time, birds that have shorter beaks are going to lose the eating competitions, and eventually, birds of that species are all going to have longer beaks.   (But I sure don't understand how that skinny Japanese guy won so many hot dog-eating contests at Coney Island...)

Believers evolve, too.  If your goal is to become more like Him, then you're going to have to evolve, in order for that to happen.  Romans 5 says "we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character."  That's evolution.   And you know what?  That's exciting!   I don't know anyone who rather be who they were ten, or twenty years ago.   Although, sometimes they would like to have back the complexion of their younger self...  We look back at who we were, and we see immaturity, impatience and downright foolishness.

Sometimes Christians compare this concept to a butterfly, and it's certainly a beautiful image: something weird and wormy goes in the cocoon, and something beautiful comes out.  But it only happens once to a butterfly.  If we are walking in faith, walking with Him, then we are continually growing more beautiful in His eyes.   As John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  We are each a work in progress.   So the next time someone says to you, "What's new?" you can answer, "I am!"

~ "Beloved, now we are children of God,
and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be,
but we know that when He is revealed, 
we shall be like Him
for we shall see Him as He is." ~
1 John 3:2

Friday, March 25, 2011

His will is your testament

"by the will of God"
Ephesians 1:1

I love how Paul introduces himself in his letters.  He refers to himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ, or a prisoner of Jesus Christ, or an apostle of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes he says he is "called by God".  Once he says, "by the commandment of God," and other times "by the will of God".  They all mean pretty much the same thing, and they all acknowledge that he is at the mercy of God's plan.  

But today I am struck by this particular wording:  "by the will of God".  I think perhaps this phrase needs to be a bigger part of my vocabulary.  Which isn't to say that it isn't a part of my thought process already.  I am frequently reassured and encouraged just by reminding myself, "His will be done."    And I have no problem remind others, when they are going through a trial, or are anxious or discouraged.  "His will be done!  You gotta pray for His will to be done!"  It's a refrain that's hard to argue with.

But the words are too powerful to use blithely.  They are not merely a refrain.  They are an acknowledgement of His power and His ultimate sovereignty here on earth.  There is no circumstance that is not the will of God, because nothing happens that He does not allow.  Even giving us free will was His idea, so every time we make a decision, it's His will.  

What I need is to stop thinking so much about my will.  Cuz that concept pretty much consumes me...  Wondrous are the events in my life where my will lined up with His.  Marrying my husband?  That was a good one.  My two beautiful children?  Nice call, God.  Not having more than two?  That one was a little harder to accept.  But I did.  Eventually.  And I discovered it's very freeing to be able to say, wholeheartedly, "If You're saying, 'no,' God, it must be for a good reason.  That thing I wanted?  I don't want it any part of it.  What I want in my life, is Your will."  The truth is, His will is going to be done.  Life can be compared to a cruise ship.  You can walk southward on the deck of the ship, but if the ship is going north, then that's where you're going.  Although we have some control over the "activities" we do onboard our lives, the destination is up to Him.

I am a wife and a mother; a teacher and a student; an apostle of Jesus Christ, and often His biggest project.  All by the will of God. 

~ "A man's heart plans his way,
but the Lord directs his steps." ~
Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'll be your waiter this evening...

"Wait, I say!"
Psalm 27:14

Do you like ventriloquists?  I think once you get past the creepy doll with the soul-less eyes (I'm kidding... mostly...), the talent of the artist is amazing.  They not only speak, but make other noises, like clearing their throat, or sneezing, without making any noticeable movement on their own face.  And they make the dolls convey emotion ~ sometimes with the help of moveable eyebrows or something, but often just through the intonation of the artist.

Through a dummy, a ventriloquist can say things they don't really mean.  Or convey feelings they aren't really feeling.  But sometimes we do that even without a dummy on our laps.  Have you ever told someone something you didn't believe yourself?  Like, "everything is going to be fine," or "don't worry; it's not going to fall," or "Santa will be here before morning"?  Sometimes we say things because we want to feel them, or because we know we should feel them.

I've been studying the Book of Acts in Bible Study this year, and it can be so hard to read about all that Paul went through, and then flip over to one of the letters he wrote, and read what he had to say.  For instance, in the Letter to the Philippians, Paul used the word "joy" several times, even though, when he wrote that letter, he was in prison.  Was he really, really feeling joy?  He was unbelievably strong in his faith, of course, but he was human.  He must have had his down times.  I wonder if sometimes he was less than joyful, but writing about joy, and reminding others to be joyful, brought him back to where he should be.

I said something to my daughter recently, that didn't particularly reveal how I felt, and it's been echoing in my mind ever since.  She has become a fan of a book series, and is eagerly waiting for the next volume to come out.  Today she found out the release date:  November.  Any excitement she felt about knowing for sure when it was coming, has been lost in the agony of an eight-month wait.   She wants it to come out tomorrow.  Or at very latest, a week from Thursday  :)   And you know what thought popped into my head when she was good-naturedly moaning about how far away November is?  I thought, "if it came out too soon, you wouldn't be able to enjoy the wait."  Immediately I was struck with how ironic that thought was.  Enjoy the wait?!?  I  have never been a good waiter.  And by that I mean, I'm not good at waiting.  I've never worked in a restaurant....  But waiting?  I've done that plenty.  Who hasn't?  As a matter of fact, I'm in a time of waiting right now.  A long time. A couple of years' worth of waiting....   And if you asked, (and no one has), I would not tell you I'm enjoying the wait.

But I think ~ as it often is ~ it's about perspective.  What I am waiting for is simply for a change in difficult circumstances.   But I know in my heart that when that change comes, when this chapter in my life ends, and He turns the page to the next one, it's going to be like Christmas.  And the wait for Christmas can be so exciting!  Why aren't I enjoying this wait more?  My perspective needs to be on the reward at the end of the wait.

Derek, our wonderful waiter at a fabulous restaurant on Kauai.
Somehow, waiting was easier on Kauai....

Are you a waiter?   Then I'd like a water with lemon, please.  But if you are waiting, I hope you'll take heart.  I hope you'll have joy.  I hope you'll focus on what He has wrapped and ready for you.  He'll give it to you when the time is right, so you can wait with expectation.

~ "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits
And in His Word I do hope." ~
Psalm 130:5

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Can He hear me now?

"Go!" ~ Judges 4:14
"I will sing." ~ Judges 5:3

I read Judges chapter 4 today, and I was encouraged.

Then I read chapter 5, and I was chagrined.

Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.  (Name that movie)

In the Book of Judges, the Israelites got themselves caught in a vicious cycle.  Joshua, their leader, had died, and they seemed to flounder without a leader.  They "did evil in the sight of the Lord", so God gave them over to the consequences of their decisions.  Then they cried out to God, so He delivered them from their enemies, and sent a judge to guide them.   Then that judge would die, and the whole thing would happened again.  The Book of Judges is a good reminder of why people need a leader.  ("In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." ~ That's a bad way to run a country...)

Chapter 4 is the story of Deborah.  Deborah was one of the judges appointed by God, and one day she called for a man named Barak, told him to take 10,000 men, and conquer an army under a man named Sisera.  Barak very courageously (not!) replied, "If you don't go with me, I won't go."  Deborah agreed; they went; and by the end of the chapter, Sisera was dead.  The high point of the chapter ~ the encouraging part ~ is verse 14:  "Go!  This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands.  Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?"  I read that, and I was reminded that there is nowhere that God asks me to go, where He has not gone ahead of me.  Nothing is a surprise to Him, therefore, I can know that whatever the trial He allows me to come to, I am prepared, and I am not alone.  There is so much confidence in that line!  "Go!  This is the day the Lord will give you victory in what He has called you to do!"  Why can't we proceed more faithfully?  More boldly?  Why do we forget there is victory ahead?

And as I was encouraged to tackle the little and big things He has planned for me today, and thankful for the victories He gave me yesterday (and the day before... and the day before...)  I continued on to chapter 5, which is titled:  The Song of Deborah.  It's 31 verses of Deborah and Barak singing praises to God.  Not just for their victory over Sisera, but simply because He is who He is.

When is the last time I thanked Him for the victories in my life?? It seemed almost a foreign concept to me.  My prayer requests are very specific, but my praise is very general.  I'm very sincere in my praise, but it doesn't get the attention I give my petitions.  I'm afraid there's no way around the fact that it's because my petitions are.... about me.  And therefore I'm more thoughtful about them.  I wish that weren't the case, but I think it is....

To be honest, I'm not totally sure how to fix this.  If I thanked Him for every little, specific, detailed blessing in my life, I'd be thanking Him non-stop.  Which I know is His desire, but it's really hard to do.  But I do know I'd like to try.  I'd like my prayer requests to be accompanied by a certainty of victory, and then followed by a song of praise.

~ "I, even I will sing to the Lord;
I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel!"
Judges 5:3

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From one soldier to another....

"like a good soldier of Christ Jesus"
2 Timothy 2:3

I'm thinking about the military today.  My Awesome Girl has been working on a report for History that has us talking about those who have served, and those who currently serve, our country.  

Scripture compares Christians to soldiers more than once, including the well-known passage in Ephesians 6:  "put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

But even with the knowledge, that I am supposed to think of myself as a soldier, I often don't comport myself that way.  I am too frequently weak, tired, or spiritually whiny.   A soldier in combat would not be shocked if the enemy fired at him ~ why am I?  1 Peter 4:12 says "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."

I am grateful ~ again ~ for those who have the courage I don't, and put on a uniform and take up a weapon against the enemy.  And I pray that their example will remind me of what is expected of me.  Because the enemy is going to come against me.  Whether or not I have my armor on, whether or not I have my weapon ready.  Praise God, I do not fight alone.

~ "For the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you,
to fight for you against your enemies,
to give you victory." ~
Deuteronomy 20:4

Monday, March 21, 2011

Batter up!

"seek the counsel of the Lord"
1 Kings 22:5

Another lesson from baseball today.  My Amazing Boy had a game yesterday.  From where I was sitting, I could hear the coach almost constantly, and I noticed how often he coached the boys to adjust their position ~ but only very slightly.  In the outfield, he might have someone take two steps to their left... A catcher might be told to move a little closer to the batter... a batter might be told to inch closer to the plate, or closer to the pitcher.   Each boy has his own tendencies, and it's part of the coach's job to recognize that, and teach each one accordingly.  

But we're just talking a few inches here, how much difference can it make?  Well, a lot, actually.  If the catcher is closer to the batter, it enables the umpire to see the pitch better.  When the pitcher is working his hardest to get the ball in the strike zone, you don't want a good pitch wasted because the ump has a slightly distorted view.  

If you're the batter, being closer to the plate is going to give you better reach on outside pitches.  With a fast pitcher, a few inches back is going to give you a few precious extra milliseconds to see the ball, whereas with a slower pitcher, you're less likely to miss the ball, by swinging too soon, if you are just a bit closer.   

In the case of outfield adjustments, it's easy to realize that the coach has a better perspective than the players ~ if they are too close together, or if there's a "hole" where a well-hit ball could do harm.  

So even if they are doing well, they could be doing better.  It will make that boy a better player, and it will benefit the team.  And one of the great side effects of the coach's... well, coaching, is that the boys frequently seek his guidance.  After every pitch, or every play, they look over at him to find out how they're doing, and if there's anything they need to know.  

I think this is a great way to think of our relationship with God.  God loves us just as we are, but He does not intend to leave us this way.   He sends trials our way, or lets us go through struggles, for the purpose of molding us.  As a sculptor shaves off tiny imperfections, or as a coach makes minute adjustments in the position of his batter, so does God make changes in us that might seem imperceptible.  He does this to make us more like Him, and as He does so, it often benefits those around us.  

We can make the process easier by looking to Him frequently.  The more we check in with Him, the less He has to try to get our attention.  The more we're in tune with Him, the less painful it will be to make minor adjustments.  A verse in Scripture; a sermon in church; the counsel of a friend.... He can use any of these to point out something in us that needs refining.  Although, as with Little Leaguers, we might need to be told more than once!    

Keep your eyes on Him.  He's got His on you.  

~ "He who began a good work in you
will be faithful to complete it." ~
Philippians 1:6

Sunday, March 20, 2011

If you're happy and you know it....

"God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy"
Ecclesiastes 2:26

"the fruit of the Spirit is joy..."
Galatians 5:22

"I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people"
Luke 2:10

"all the people went their way to eat and drink... and rejoice greatly because they understood the words that were declared to them."
Nehemiah 8:12

"Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength"
Nehemiah 8:10

"Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart."
Jeremiah 15:16

"having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit"
1 Thessalonians 1:6

"The saints of Zion shall shout aloud for joy"
Psalm 132:16

"They shall come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads.  They shall obtain joy and gladness."
Isaiah 35:10

"You shall go out with joy"
Isaiah 55:12

"I will make them joyful in My house of prayer."
Isaiah 56:7

"gladness is for the upright in heart."
Psalm 97:11

"Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous!"
Psalm 97:12

"Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; shout for joy all you upright in heart!"
Psalm 32:11

"Rejoice in the Lord!"
Philippians 3:1

'nuff said.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Father, May I?

"present yourself approved" ~ 2 Timothy 2:15
"thoroughly equipped..." ~ 2 Timothy 3:17

Remember that game, "Mother, May I?"  Actually, it was sort of silly, now that I think about it.  "The Caller" tells you what to do, like "Take three giant steps," but then you have to ask, "Mother, may I?"  and then The Caller says, "Yes, you may."  Why would you have to ask for permission when you were told to do something?  But I digress...  Don't you love it when I digress in the very first paragraph?

I thought about that game recently, while I was getting on the freeway.  The freeway on-ramps around here have meters on them ~ stoplights that turn green every three seconds or something, so that cars enter the freeway one at a time.  So you stop, and you wait until it's your turn.  It keeps the freeway from clogging up at entrance points.  Makes the whole system run a little more smoothly.

And then I started to think, what if life was like that?  What if you weren't allowed to enter your day until you were given permission?   If you couldn't enter your office, or even get in your car, or maybe even leave your bedroom, until you were "ready".   I can just picture God looking me over, and saying, "No, not yet.  You're a little cranky from not sleeping well.  You need more prayer first."  So I'd kneel down and a few minutes later, I could know I was ready to face the day.  Or maybe He'd say gently, "I'm sorry, but this is going to be a day when you're going to need more patience than you currently have."  So I'd go back and sit down, and He'd lead me through some appropriate Scriptures so that I'd be thoroughly equipped for that day.

Courage... Boldness... Perseverance... Patience... Faith... Only He knows what we are going to need each day.  Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the armor of God, and 2 Timothy tells us that through His Word, we can present ourselves approved to Him, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  So if I try to enter my day without reading the Bible, without getting the "go-ahead" from Him, I'm setting myself up for failure.  And I'm liable to cause a traffic jam for others by not being guided by God.

So get yourself ready.  And then ask Him if you are ready.  "Father, may I?"  "Yes, you may."  Then grab His hand, and off you go!  

~ "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, 
a worker who does not need to be ashamed, 
rightly dividing the word of truth." ~
2 Timothy 2:15

~ "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, 
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, 
for instruction in righteousness, 
that the man of God may be complete, 
thoroughly equipped for every good work." ~
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Friday, March 18, 2011

Forcing Karma in the Parking Lot

get it?  karma?  like, "car-ma" ?    I know.... you can't hear the rim shot from there...

"God works all things for good..."
Romans 8:28

I dropped off my Amazing Boy for baseball practice today, and I had a short time before I had to be back for the game.  So naturally I wanted to make good use of my time.  But as I went to back out of the parking place, I realized there was a car behind me, dropping off another boy.  So I was stuck.  He got out of the car, then opened the trunk to get his equipment, then dashed off, leaving the trunk open.  Apparently this car had an automatic trunk closing ability (there's probably a more automobile-savvy way to phrase that), but it was slow and steady, and the driver stayed where she was until the trunk had closed.  So I waited.  Finally, she drove off, and I was free.

Now, please understand, I wasn't irritated, or anxious at having to wait, but because I was counting the minutes I had, I was very aware of this slight delay.  And then, as I pulled out, I realized that since she had gone that-a-way, I could go this-a-way, and get out of the parking lot before she did.

That thought was immediately followed by the realization ~ albeit not for the first time ~ that I'm just a little competitive.  (Trivial Pursuit, anyone?)  And that thought was followed by the realization - or defense - that I wasn't really trying to get out of the parking lot before she did, that was the way it worked out!  I was going to get out of the parking lot before she did, and so that evened everything out.

Which is when the thought occurred to me that things being evened out, is not important to God whatsoever.  I thought about Romans 8:28, and how it says "God works all things for good for those who love Him..."  Nothing about fair in there.  God is completely just, but He never promised that life would be fair.  Just ask Job.  Just ask any disciple martyred for his faith.  Just ask Jesus.

We spend a great deal of thought, and sometimes energy, trying to make things are "even".  We feel the need to get revenge, get our fair share, or get the last word in.  But God is about turning the other cheek, doing unto others, and loving thy neighbor.  I guess I need to turn my thoughts more often to how I can bless others, and let God worry about how it will all work out for the best for me.

~ "God works all things for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to His purpose.
It is God who justifies." ~
Romans 8:28, 33

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lessons from a..... parrot?

"Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror... then we shall see face to face"
1 Corinthians 13:12

A friend of mine has a funny little parrot named Diego.  He wanders around the house, or sits on the counter, or on her shoulder.  And although I've never heard him talk, he does make an interesting variety of noises.  And he loves to chew on things.  He seems to like plastic, or other hard objects.  He doesn't eat them, just tears pieces off and goes back for more.

What he does not have, though, is a mirror.  I've seen birds in pet stores that have mirrors in their cages, so I asked my friend why, and she said that the breeder warned her that with this particular breed, if they have a mirror in their cage, they will fall in love with their reflection (!!)  and not properly bond with their owners.  I found this tidbit of knowledge fascinating ~ partially because I find things like bird trivia (and trout trivia) interesting.   But also because I thought there was a warning there...

Mirrors can be dangerous.  I think we can rely on them too much, to give us confidence.  "Okay, my hair looks good; I can leave now."  Or, "Yes, I look as good in this outfit as I was hoping to," when we really can't accurately see what we look like from the back, so we really aren't getting the whole picture.  Plus, when you look in the mirror, you hold your position: chin up... each hair exactly where you placed it... tummy sucked in... whatever.  We look in the mirror and think, "This is the most perfect I can get," and then we walk away assuming that's what we look like all day.    The mirror lies, people!

The spiritual comparison, I believe, is whenever we're at our spiritual best.  At church... at Bible study.... or maybe as we finish up our morning Quiet Time.  We've read some Scripture, we've checked off everyone on our "To Pray" list.... we're feeling strong, feeling like He's proud of us.  "This is the most perfect I can get," and then off we go.  But before we know it, and certainly before we realize it, we're judging, or coveting, or telling a "white" lie or a one of a million other things that do not qualify as loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourself.

We look in the mirror ~ physical or spiritual ~ and we fall in love with what we see there.  And it prevents us from bonding with Him.  And that prevents us from listening to Him, and that prevents us from doing, saying, being what He wants us to.   Cuz what I see looks good to me.  But that ain't good enough.

Skip the mirror, and check your reflection in Him.  Frequently.  Pray that He will show you what He sees, and that what He sees, will look like Him.

~ "You have searched me, Lord and You know me...
You perceive my thoughts from afar... You are familiar with all my ways...
Search me, God, and know my heart
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting." ~
Psalm 139

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are you upside-down?

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:13

My Amazing Boy was playing with a “roly poly” bug recently.  We were waiting outside Ye Olde Lube & Tune Shoppe for our carriage to be re-oiled.  He and I sat on the curb ~ I was doing something productive and useful (playing solitaire) and he letting one of those funny little critters crawl on his hand. 

The little bug would walk across the length of his palm, and he would then put his second hand next to his first hand, so the bug could keep walking.  Then when he’d crossed that one, the first hand would be there waiting.  AB said, with not a little glee, “Look!  I can decide how long his pathway is!”  There’s a fascinating feel to having that much power of something, isn’t there?  Especially when you’re the youngest in the family.  He has spent his life with everyone telling him what to do.  The only chance he has to be “in charge” is over the dog, and she sees him as more of a playmate than a master.  And the cat…. Well, she’s a cat.  And you know how they are…

So he held this little life in his little hands.  Well, giant hands, to the roly poly.  And for a minute, an analogy popped into my head, of our relationship to God.  But that analogy didn’t sit with me for very long.  There was too much that didn’t fit.  My son, after all, didn’t create the bug.  And his feelings for the bug, while he certainly wouldn't have hurt it, were about fascination, not really love and compassion.  And putting his hands one after the other, to make the bug keep crawling forever was sort of toying with him.  God doesn’t treat us that way.   It’s not a cat-and-mouse game we’re playing.  Or Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.  {Go ahead:  google it.  I’ll wait.}

But then Amazing Boy said something that was entirely God-like.  He saw a second roly poly on the ground, upside-down.  And he said excitedly, "Ooh!  I can save this one!"  And that, my friends, is the essence of God.  Like in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, He sees each one of us as lost, dying in our sin, until we are picked up in His hand, and turned right-side-up.  And just as my sweet boy was excited to have the opportunity, so God rejoices every time a sinner repents.

So you can see yourself as a spider, being dangled over a fire (another Jonathan Edwards' reference); or you can see yourself gently held in the hand of the Creator.  He loves you with a tender compassion that is unmatched here on earth.  (Although, a 10 year old boy with a heart of gold comes close!)  And if you're feeling upside-down, take heart!  Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Men at Work

"do not become weary in doing good"
Galatians 6:9

Did you ever see one of those posters with some sort of animal on it ~ a polar bear, or a kitten or some such ~ lazing somewhere comfy, and at the bottom are the words:  “Work fascinates me.  I could watch it for hours.” ?

Well, I had an experience like that recently.  There are street crews working behind our house, and for a time I went outside to look over the wall.  I was wondering how much longer they were going to be there, because the noise had been going on for hours.  But when I got out there, I found myself oddly transfixed by the work, and stayed there, leaning on the wall, watching, for several minutes.  I came back in where my Productive Hubby was actually getting something done, and checking things off his “to-do” list, and told him, “That’s strangely hypnotic…” 

Near as I can tell, they had dug a trench to lay a new pipe or cable of some kind.  Now they were covering it over with dirt.   The driver of the bulldozer was scooping a layer of dirt from the left side of the trench, and pushing it forward, so that it would fill in the right side of the trench, where there apparently was not enough dirt.  Then he’d back up, and repeat.  Each time, the pile of dirt progressed a little farther than the time before.  In the meantime, two guys with brooms (that sounds like a wacky sitcom, doesn’t it?) would clean up either side of the trench.

I was entranced not only by the repetition involved, but also by the fact that they were accomplishing something, albeit very slowly.   The bulldozer-guy (there’s probably a technical term for that) didn’t just want to scoop as much dirt as he could, he wanted just the right amount.  It had to be level, because asphalt was going to be laid on top of it.    I also liked the fact that Two Guys with Brooms were cleaning up as they went.  That might be because I’m slightly OCD, or it might simply be that I like to see men cleaning up…

So, the spiritual lesson in Men at Work?  I think it is the value of doing what is monotonous, or seemingly pointless.  Much of what we are called to do in this life is tedious, whether you are a homemaker, a businessman, or a garbage collector.  Same thing over and over, day after day…  often wondering what you are accomplishing.  But great cities are built little by little.  Muscles are strengthened little by little.  Character is increased and faith grows little by little.

So take the next step, in your job, or in your trial.  And then take the one after that.  If you offer what you do to Him, then nothing will be wasted.  He will accomplish something in your heart and in your mind and in your life, and in the lives of those around you.  Now get to work!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Order from Disorder

"God is not the author of confusion"
1 Corinthians 14:33

I hate chaos.  I mean, I guess everyone does.  It's so.... chaotic.    But there are people who thrive on situations like that.  Exciting, high-pressure, action...  So if those people exist, then it's proof that people like me exist.  People for whom chaos is more disturbing than it is for the average person.  "Chaos," after all, means "disorder and confusion", so that can certainly be in the eye of the beholder.

I recently had a very chaotic day.  I spent six hours in a place of, for me, disorder and confusion.  I say "for me" because I'm know there were those there who thought everything was fine.  We were at my Awesome Girl's volleyball tournament.  At any given time, there were up to eight games going on in this cavernous building.  Whistles blowing; balls flying; girls yelling "mine!"; coaches hollering instructions; parents alternately yelling instructions and encouragements; grand-parents mumbling about how "they don't play the game like we used to"; siblings playing; and, of course, general chit-chat.  This, for me, is a recipe for anxiety.  Now, later in the day, I attended my Amazing Boy's baseball game, which had a lot in common with the volleyball, being an exciting, parent-attended sport, but it was far less anxiety-producing.  Only one game to watch; pauses of quiet in-between the action; and it was outdoors.  That meant it was less climate-controlled, but also that ambient noise could drift off to the heavens, instead of ricocheting off the walls and ceiling.

I think what's missing, when one experiences chaos, is focus.  When we're thinking about too much, then we're not giving the best of our mind to any one thing.  I thought a lot, during my chaotic day, about how God is not the Author of confusion.  But I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do about it, short of praying for a feeling of peace in my heart.    But as I lay in bed that night, I think I came upon the solution.  If the secret is focus, then the answer is Philippians 4:8 ~ "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."  Anything you can think of that satisfies those criteria, is gonna connect you to Jesus.  You can think of something lovely, like something in nature.  Or you can think of something true, like His Word.  Or you can cut out the middleman, and just think of Him: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.    And as I was thinking of how this verse might be the secret to not feeling anxious, I realized that it comes in the same passage as Philippians 4:6 ~ "Do not be anxious about anything."  Go figure...  Genius, aren't I?  You should see me doing connect-the-dots puzzles....

Anxiety in chaotic situations often catches me off-guard, so my prayer is that I will remember this verse the next time I find myself in such a place ~ instead of afterwards.  The peace that follows is the promise worth remembering. 

~ "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." ~
Philippians 4:6-8

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reasons to Praise

"Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard!"
Psalm 66:8

Lest we forget how deserving He is....

He is the Lamb of God
~ "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, 
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength 
and honor and glory and praise!" ~
Revelation 5:12

There is none beside Him
~ "You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God." ~
Psalm 86:10

He is my Refuge
~ "My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, 
my Shield and the One in whom I take refuge." ~
Psalm 144:2

He is my Savior
~ "I, even I, am the Lord, 
and besides Me there is no Savior." ~
Isaiah 43:11

He is Wisdom
~ "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  
How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!" ~
Romans 11:33

He is Unlimited
~ "Can you search out the deep things of God?  
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?" ~
Job 11:7

He is the Source
~ "Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
and comes down from the Father of lights." ~
James 1:17