Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You can't have it all ~ where would you put it?

"more will be given and he will have abundance"
Matthew 13:12

I did some spring-cleaning today.  I know, I know, but spring-cleaning can hardly be contained in just spring, don't you think?  My kids and I are frequently sorting through toys or books or clothes, weeding out what we no longer want or use (or fit in) and passing them on to friends or charities.   More than once I've been struck with the ironic thought of how glad I am to be rid of something that I was once so excited to have.  Especially things like furniture or appliances... because they're expensive, it's a planned-for, anticipated purchase, and a fun addition to the house.  But because they're big, they're hard to get rid of.  Charities can be selective about donations like that, and the trash collector can't necessarily help you even if the item has reached the end of its life.

Today, as part of our new school year, I was getting out new textbooks and putting them on our school shelves, and at the same time deciding what to do with the old.  Papers, school supplies, etc... keep?  toss?  give away?    And one of piles I found was sheets of stickers.  Several pages worth of stickers.  My Amazing Boy used to love stickers as one of the rewards for working hard in school.  I would put them on his worksheets, and on his pencil box, and he thought that was such a treat.  There was a time when I couldn't have enough stickers.  I bought some, but I also got stuff from friends whose kids had outgrown them, and I was so glad to have plenty to choose from, as well as having enough that I knew I wouldn't run out.

And now?  Amazing Boy has outgrown stickers, and I have dozens left over.  And the word that came into my head today was "abundance".   God promises us abundance, but I think maybe sometimes we overlook all the ways that He provides.  Because when you think abundance, you don't think stickers, right?  Anytime we have extras of something, anytime we find ourselves getting rid of something that's still useful, it's because we have an abundance.  Ever throw away food that went bad before you had a chance to eat it?  That's because you had an abundance.  Maybe not an abundance of that particular food, but enough that you could choose not to eat that.  Got clothes you never wear?   Kitchen gadgets you use only at Thanksgiving?  A backup of anything just in case your "good" one is not available?  Abundance.   Even a spare tire on your car!

Our choice would be an abundance of money, but that's pretty short-sighted.  He's much more creative than that, right?  So it's up to us to look around and see all that He has provided in abundance, and recognize it as a promise kept.

~ "Take heed and beware of covetousness, 
for one's life does not consist 
in the abundance of the things he possesses" ~
Luke 12:15

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Blind Side

"Bear one another's burdens"
Galatians 6:2

Have you seen the movie "The Blind Side"?  A wonderful Sandra Bullock movie.  I just saw it on video a few weeks ago, and it has really stuck with me.  The plot of the movie is a family who takes in a high-schooler who has no place to live.  He's a football player who goes on to the NFL, but the position he plays is that of Left Tackle.  This is where the name of the movie comes from, because it is the Left Tackle who protects the Quarterback from the onrush of opposing players.  He protects his blind side.

It's a wonderful movie about showing love ~ the family toward the young man they invite to their home ~ but also the the young man and his devotion to them.  But the concept of protecting someone's "blind side" is explored from several angles.  As a Left Tackle, protecting the Quarterback; as a mother protecting a struggling young man for whom she feels compassion; as a teen-ager without a family protecting those who took a chance on loving him.

This is the concept that keeps returning to my mind.  And the more I think about it, the more I think that this is exactly what we are called to do as Christians.  Being there for someone else is selfless.  It means thinking of someone else's needs or wants... about what's best for them.  It can even mean putting yourself in danger for the sake of someone else.  And not just thinking of someone else, not just being there for them, not just protecting them, but watching their blind side.  Looking out for what they don't see coming.

We all have reason to protect ourselves.  We worry about our own blind sides.  But I think if we are giving priority to someone else, God will make sure He's got someone looking out for us.

Look around at who He's got in your life.  There should be someone for whom you are their back-up; their protector.  It might be a spouse or a child or even a parent.  But for most of us, that's not it.  Unless you have a family member who requires an unusual amount of attention, He's probably led you to someone ~ a friend, someone at church or in your ministry ~ for whom He is asking you to be self-less... an assistant, a protector, a backup... He's asking you to watch someone's blind side.

~ "Bear one another's burdens, 
and so fulfill the law of Christ" ~
Galatians 6:2

Monday, August 29, 2011

The worst kind of "thoughtless"

"their thinking became futile"
Romans 1:21

This verse is one of those that struck me with horror the first time I read it.  I love thinking.  I love studying, analyzing, pondering, musing, wondering.... So the idea of my thought process being futile was chilling.

So who are those whose thinking became futile?  Those who "know God, but neither glorify Him, nor give thanks to Him."  I wonder how big a percentage of the population that is?  How many, many of children do little more than acknowledge His existence, and yet call themselves Christians?  The vast majority of Americans, when responding to surveys, say they believe in God.  On the surface, this seems like a good thing, but it seems to be contradicted by their actions.   Movies, TV shows, magazines, ads.... they all reflect a standard of values that are far below God's standard.  And why?  Not because these people believe in God, but because that's all they do is believe.

They believe their salvation, their place in heaven, is secure because they believe in God.  But the shocking  truth is, that even satan believes in God.  Is this who you believe is your peer??

Believing is not the goal, although it does show good sense to not deny the obvious.  The Book of Romans says they claim to be wise, but are fools who neither glorify Him as God, nor give thanks to Him.  Fools with darkened hearts.  I shudder at the thought of belonging to that category, but then there is this:  "their thinking became futile."

What a dreary, depressing thought.  I love crossword puzzles, trivia, Bible study, etc, because they are mentally challenging.  They exercise the muscle that is my brain.  What would it be like if my thinking were futile?

The word "futile" is a very discouraging word.  It means having no useful result; trifling and frivolous; lacking importance or purpose; useless.   Useless?? Of no importance?  Philosopher Rene Des Cartes famously proclaimed, "I think, therefore I am."  Imagine this proclamation:  "I think uselessly, therefore I am useless."  Depressing.  Do you know someone who could accurately say this?  Can you?

I believe in God, and I know Him.  I glorify Him as God, and I give thanks to Him.  For this, He gives my life purpose, and makes me useful.  He is I Am; therefore I think.

~ "Since this is your heart's desire, 
and you have not asked
 for wealth, possessions or honor... 
but for wisdom and knowledge... 
therefore, wisdom and knowledge will be given you." ~
2 Chronicles 1:11-12

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ready or not...

"Herod had John the Baptist 
beheaded in the prison"
Matthew 14:10

Sometimes we wonder why things happen when they do.  Especially when it's something bad, on top of something bad.   "Why is God doing this to me?" we think.  Or maybe you've thought to yourself, "I think maybe this time God has given me more than I can handle."  Or even, "I don't think He understands what I'm going through, or He wouldn't be asking this of me right now!"

"John's disciples went and told Jesus."
Matthew 14:12

At Herod's birthday celebration, the daughter of Herodias danced for him.  He was so pleased, he promised to give her anything she asked for, and at her mother's prompting, she requested the head of John the Baptist. 

John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin.  But more than that, he was His prophet.  Echoing the words of Isaiah, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord!"

"When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."
Matthew 14:13

Verse 13 gives us a glimpse into Jesus' pain upon hearing the news of John's death.  Though He knew it was coming, it still caused Him to grieve.  And in His grief, all He wanted, was to be alone.

Look at the words in that verse:  "withdrew"... "privately"... "solitary"...   You can't miss the message here.  Jesus didn't often think of Himself, but here He pulled away, from His disciples, and from the crowds.

"Hearing of this, 
the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns"
Matthew 14:13

But it wasn't to be.  "Really?  Now?  Can I just get some time to Myself??"  No.  Nor "why didn't you stop them?" to the disciples.  Instead...

"When Jesus saw a large crowd, 
He had compassion on them and healed their sick."
Matthew 14:14

Service.  Love.  Compassion.  In the midst of His grief.  And then?  As if that wasn't enough.

"As evening approached, 
the disciples came to Him... 
'Send them away, 
so they can buy themselves some food.'"  
Matthew 14:15

The people had another need.  But He had a plan.

"Taking the five loaves and the two fish
 and looking up to heaven, 
He gave thanks and broke the loaves.  
The number of those who ate
 was about five thousand men, 
besides women and children."
Matthew 14:19,21

A miracle.  One of His biggest, in terms of the number of people who were blessed.  5000 men.  Plus the women.  Plus the children.  Plus the disciples.

When all He wanted was to be alone.

He understands "Why this?  Why now?"  He did it, too.

"There is a time appointed for everything"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Merci ~ Gracias ~ Danke Schoen ~ Dhanyavaad ~ Terima Kasih

"Every good and perfect gift is from above"
James 1:17

Are you a thank-you note writer?  It's kind of a dying art, I think.  When I was growing up, we weren't allowed to read it, eat it, or play with it until we had written a thank-you note for it.

Nowadays, thank-you notes that are sent, are just as likely to be in the form of email or text messages, as they are flowery cards or stationery.  I've even seem some clever cards for wedding or baby shower gifts, that are made from photos.  It's fun to be able to do something creative with what can seem like a chore.

But of course, thank-you notes are often not sent at all.  We're all busier than we used to be, and it's the kind of thing that gets lost as we work through our to-do list.

Well the other day, someone very dear to me did something very nice for me.  They sent me a gift, and a sweet card.  It's not my birthday, it's not Christmas.  I guess they were just thinking of me.   But the thing is, I have no idea who this very dear person is.  The gift came without a return address, and the card came without a signature.   I was so touched, and because it was unexpected, I had the urge to sit right down at the computer and shoot off an email to my thoughtful friend, but of course I couldn't.   I felt so... sort of... helpless.  I even feel guilty for not thanking someone for giving me a gift.  My mother never would have let me get away with that when I was a kid!  :)

But what can I do?  I can say it here, not knowing if the friend is someone who reads this.  I can maybe share with a few people ~ at church or at Bible Study ~ that something exciting happened to me, hoping that it will get back to them how grateful I am.  But it seems a little self-involved to have that conversation out of the blue with people: "Hey, guess what happened to me!"

I realized, soon after opening the gift, that He is the obvious place to direct my thanks.  He is the One who prompted the gift.  He is, after all, the source of all blessings, even those that come via human hands.   The card, though not signed, spoke of prayer, so I know the sender communicates with Him, and I communicate with Him, so I know He'll transmit the love from me to her {I'm just guessing it's a "her"} just as He has shared her (?) love with me.

Though it's a lesson I've been taught many, many times before, I'm reminded that I don't thank Him enough.  Don't get me wrong:  I thank Him for things every day.  But no matter how much we thank Him, we aren't thanking Him enough, don't you think?

For sunrise and sunset... for clouds and rainbows... for mountains and beaches...
For toilets and appliances and cars that work...
For home and health and family and friends and pets...
For groceries and furniture and gas money and screens and dryer sheets and shoes and computers and electricity and first-responders...
And for anonymous gifts...

* Thank you, Lord *

~ "In everything give thanks, 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, for you" ~
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Friday, August 26, 2011

Miracles I'm Counting On

Life is hard.  Ever notice?  If it's not one thing, it's another, so when the going gets tough, we gotta get going.

Okay, I think that's it for my Cliche Festival.  Here's the Bible version:

"In the world, you will have tribulation"
John 16:33

The economy, unrest in the world, natural disasters... Every page of the newspaper, and every "breaking news" headline seems to herald catastrophe.

Now, tribulation can take many different forms.  Sometimes it's big, like Hurricane Irene.  Sometimes it's medium, like a car repair you're not sure you can afford.  And sometimes it's small, like being out of milk, and still several days to go until you receive your paycheck.   Tribulation comes from the Latin word for "oppression," and oppression includes "mental pressure."  So anything that causes you anxiety,  even being out of milk, can be called "tribulation".

One important way to deal with mental pressure is with perspective, of course.  Realizing that unless you're dealing with Hurricane Irene, things could be worse for you.  Of course, even if you are dealing with Hurricane Irene, it's likely that things could be worse...

But if you are, I'm praying for you.

But I've come to realize a way I have for dealing with tribulation, particularly of the "anxiety" kind.  And my solution is based on awareness of miracles.  I know what God can do, so I fully expect Him to do something similar in my life.  Here are some examples:

The Feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 15, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6) ~ You know the story:  Jesus multiplied two loaves and five fish to feed 5,000+ people.  Like many people these days, my family needs our dollar to go a little farther than it used to.  So one of my tricks is to make dinner with a little less in the way of ingredients; say, 3/4 of a pound of ground beef instead of a whole pound.  Then I trust that God will stretch it so that we are all well fed.  And it works.  My growing kids still eat their two helpings, no one feels hungry after dinner, and I've got a little meat for the next meal.  Miracle.

Along those same lines, gas prices = $$$, right?  Well the miracle I'm looking for here is in 2 Kings 17.  Elijah asked a widow for bread, but she told him she had only enough flour and oil to bake one more loaf.  But in exchange for sharing it with him, the Lord promised through Elijah that her flour and oil would not run dry.   With this miracle in mind, and knowing that He is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides, I pray that the gas in my car, and yes, the milk in our fridge, would last longer than we expect it to.  It's not something I can measure, really.  I just have faith that He is doing that for us.  Miracle.

How about an amazing miracle in Joshua chapter 10?   One of my favorites.  Joshua and the Israelites were in battle against the Amorites, and winning, but they needed more time to finish the battle.  So Joshua prayed, and the sun stood still in the sky, giving them the time they needed.   Well, I have the feeling I'm gonna need this one soon.  The school year coming up is going to be a busy one.  My Awesome Girl is starting high school, and I'm determined to be everything she needs.  I want to be sure that her education is my priority.  This is not easy as it sounds.  She's very self-sufficient and self-motivating, so I tend to trust her to herself, while I do other things.  And I have plenty of other things to do... like teaching my Amazing Boy (6th grade), the work I do in my ministry, keeping the house, and oh, maybe things like brushing my teeth....  I don't know what my schedule is going to look like when the school year starts, and I'm worried that some days there won't be enough hours.  But I trust that if I'm doing His work ~ as Joshua was ~ He will enable me to achieve all I need to.  Even if it means that He causes the universe to work with me.  Miracle.

One last example.  With all those aforementioned, anxiety-producing economic and weather issues on the horizon, we have good reason to wonder what's ahead.  Good reason to wonder, but not to worry.   Once upon a time, God's chosen people were slaves in Egypt.  God answered their prayers for deliverance, so they packed up their belongings ~ and a few treasures of Egypt ~ and headed out into the desert.  Away from Egypt.  They headed toward freedom, and a land of their own.  But they were also headed straight toward the Red Sea.  You see where I'm going with this?  I may not know what's ahead, but if I'm going where He's leading, then He's got a plan for any obstacle that awaits me.

In fact, He's got a miracle for anything that's ahead of me.  I'm counting on it.

"In this world you will have tribulation; 
but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world"
John 16:33

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This is the way to wash our feet, wash our feet, wash our feet...

"Peter said to Him, 
'Lord, are You washing my feet?' "
John 13:6

Aaahhh.... summer....  Summer means iced tea and lemonade... it means plenty of swimming and staying up late... and it means flip-flops and bare feet.

I really don't like going around in bare feet.  I try to have a pair of flip-flops, even for doing stuff around the house, but I seem to just hop up from my chair, and forget they're there.   And then later on, sometimes at night, I'll hop in the shower to clean off and cool down.  I take one step onto the wet floor of the shower, and I can't believe the dirty footprints I'm leaving on the shower floor.  Of course, a minute later the water rinses them away, but I still find myself surprised at how dirty my feet have gotten over the course of the day.

So this morning in the shower, I found myself thinking of the times that the Bible talks about washing feet. I could only think of two instances:  Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, and Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus.  But when I looked it up, I found over 20 mentions of foot-washing.  And there are interesting points to be from some of those references.   Some of the verses are about rest and hospitality, about serving others.  Some are about preparation, such as for service in the temple.  Some are about honoring others, showing humility.

The most famous incident ~ Jesus washing the feet of the disciples ~ speaks to all those.   It was probably something that didn't strike the disciples as odd, since foot-washing was so necessary in those days and in that place.  But we do know they were uncomfortable with their Lord and Savior doing the washing.  Of course, He had a point to make there, about serving others.   "I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15)

But He also knew that God was about to do something.  In their lives and in the world and in the universe and for all time.  It reminds me of the passage in Joshua, on the night before they crossed over the Jordan, when Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

But you know what I was thinking about in the shower today?  That if it weren't for those dirty footprints I was leaving ~ if it weren't for the fact that my feet were being cleaned ~ I wouldn't have any idea how dirty they were.  Think about it:  your feet are all the way down there, and you have to do something acrobatic to see the bottoms of them.  Unless you're sitting.  But that's cheating.

I think of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, and how only He knew how dirty those feet were.  Sitting that close, touching them, washing and drying them.  He knew intimately their need to be cleaned.

And He knows us that well, too.  Because we know it's not just our feet that need to be cleansed.  But we have no idea the great extent to which we need Him.  We need to ask Him to cleanse us, and trust Him to take care of areas we have been neglecting:  attitude, laziness, ungratefulness, distrustfulness...

And when we have been washed, when we have been sanctified, then we will be prepared for what God is about to do.

~ "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" ~
John 13:9

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's that supposed to mean?

"looking intently into the law"
James 1:25

Well, I think this is going to be an interesting follow-up to yesterday's post, although I didn't plan it that way.  But that's one of God's tactics, isn't it?

So I got to work today studying Awesome Girl's science textbooks for the coming year.  And I got to thinking about the most-frequently-asked question of students everywhere:  "Why do I have to learn this; am I ever gonna use this information??"  I find this question easier to answer when it comes to math, than I do other subjects.  Even without a career in, I don't know.... engineering or something, I use math every day.  Baking, shopping, trip-planning, budgeting, etc.  Math is everywhere.

But I think with subjects like science and history, it's harder for kids to understand why they need to know what they are being taught.   If they're not planning on being a historian, or a scientist, what meaning does this material have for their lives?

Now, for one thing, there is learning to be learned from learning.  {Say that five times fast!}  Taking the steps of reading, taking notes, discussing and memorizing information is good for your brain.   School teaches perseverance, focus, goal-setting, and organization, along with the subjects themselves.

But I do want my kids to take something concrete away from every subject they study.  And today I realized that I could apply the same learning process to any subject, that I apply to learning the Bible.

And that way of studying is to read something, and then ask:

• What does this say?
• What does it mean?
• What does it mean to me?

I don't know when I learned this approach to reading the Bible, but it makes all the difference.  I talked yesterday in this forum about the difference between reading and studying, and this is part of it.  This is a wonderful approach to thinking about what you've read.   Let's look at the ever-popular John 3:16.

"For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."   What does that say?  It says that God is love and that He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to earth, to die, and that whoever believes in Him will live eternally.  What does it mean?  It means the difference between life and death.  What does it mean to me?  It means that I have a choice, and my choice will determine my eternity.

I want to teach my kids that history, and science, and math are indeed applicable to their daily lives.   Science is about the earth they live on, and the plants and animals with whom they share the planet.  History is about the world they live in, how the peoples and cultures around them came to be.  But more than that, I want them to know that God's Word is applicable to their lives ~ every day, in unexpected situations.  His Word is science and math and history and music and art and family and wisdom and joy. And the sooner we understand that, the sooner we can apply it to our lives.

~ "Whoever looks intently 
into the perfect law that gives freedom,
 and continues in it
 ~ not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it ~ 
they will be blessed in what they do" ~
James 1:25

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rightly dividing the word

"Study to show yourself approved to God"
2 Timothy 2:15

August is rapidly winding up, which means the next school year is rapidly approaching, which means I'm rapidly running out of time to prep.   There's a lot that can't be done in advance, like record-keeping and the actual teaching, but there's a lot of reading I can do in advance.

But I also need to familiarize myself with the textbooks as much as possible.  I don't want to be looking at them for the first time along with my kids.  And in order to properly lesson plan, I need to know what's involved.

Awesome Girl has two different science books for the upcoming year, from two different publishers, and I'm not sure how much material is repeated.  But there's no time to read two high-school science textbooks in the next two weeks, so I need to do the next best thing.  My favorite thing.  I need to study them.

Studying is different from reading, although reading is often necessary for study.  You can read about dolphins, or you can learn from the dolphins themselves ~ study them.   But since I don't have time to read these books, I'm going to study them.  Look at them side by side.  Compare the tables of contents, and the setup - how many chapters, how many units.  What topics are covered, and in what order?  In what way?  Can I use one for the primary text, and one for a backup, or will we use them concurrently?

There's a lot to be said for studying ~ and it's exactly how we should approach Scripture.  The word "study" means "to look at closely to observe; investigate and analyze in detail," and it comes from the Latin for "zealous, painstaking application".  The Bible is not meant to just be read.  It's far too complex for that.  And there are countless details that will add to our understanding of what we are reading.  Details like the author of the specific book; the audience for whom it was written, and the time it was written.  Many Bibles ~ particularly study Bibles ~ have this information at the beginning of each book.  We can also gain from geographical information and biographical information on the people.  It can be very eye-opening, for instance, to learn that a king mentioned in one book is the grandfather of a king mentioned somewhere else.

You can't understand everything God has revealed to us unless you read the Bible.  And you can't understand everything in the Bible without studying what you have read.  Don't be content with what you have learned; there's always more to learn.

~ "Ezra had devoted himself to the study 
and observance of the Law of the Lord, 
and to teaching its degrees and laws in Israel" ~
Ezra 7:10

Monday, August 22, 2011

Is this why horses wear blinders?

"You follow me"
John 21:22

Most people are very familiar with the conversation Jesus and Peter had after Jesus' resurrection.  We are reminded of Peter's three denials of Jesus when Jesus asks him three times, "Do you love me?"  Each time, Peter answers, "Yes, Lord, You know that I love you".  And Jesus responds, three times, with what He wants Peter's focus to be:  "feed My lambs.... tend My sheep... feed My sheep."

But after this powerful exchange, there is a little more to the conversation.  Peter, still showing his immaturity, points to John, and asks, "But Lord, what about him?"  And Jesus responds:  "What is that to you?  You follow Me."

I have always loved this very pointed reminder that each of us walk a different walk with Him.  There are some things in Scripture that are non-negotiable.  Faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation; and salvation is based on faith, not our works.  But there are different interpretations on other issues, such as how we are to observe the Sabbath, how we understand Biblical food restrictions, or whether it's okay to drink.  We  might have different understandings of what God desires, but we are each to be obedient to our understanding, without stumbling others.

We are also each called to serve Him in different ways.  There are a myriad of ways to love our neighbor:  children, victims of domestic violence, the poor, animals, AIDS victims, veterans... God calls each of us to a different ministry, and we are not to look to those on our right or those on our left.  They are not our standard.  He is.

I was reminded of this passage recently, when I wasn't expecting it.  He often speaks to us that way, doesn't he?  I was at a mandatory gathering for a ministry I'm involved with, and unfortunately, I was a little cranky that day.  I had not slept well two night's in a row, and as someone once said, without enough sleep, we all become very tall two-year-olds....

So as the meeting got started, all I could notice was the people around me.  Those people over there were late (and are perpetually late).... those people weren't sitting with the rest of the group... and those other people were hanging out in the coffee bar, chatting, while the rest of us were meeting.  "It's not fair," I grumbled to myself.... "how come I have to...." and "why do they get to..."  And then very gently, I was reminded of Jesus' words to Peter:  "What is that to you?"

Yes, we might be working our hardest, and watching others achieve with what seems like less work.   We might be doing what's right, and watching others get away with "cheating".   But that's what we get for looking to the right or the left.   My relationship with Him is with Him.  I need only keep my eyes on Him, and obey what He has called me to.

~ "Therefore you shall be careful to do
 as the Lord your God has commanded you; 
you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" ~
Deuteronomy 5:32

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not by bread alone

"by day the Lord directs His love"
Psalm 42:8

This is what God said to me today:

"You are free"

"You are beloved"

"You are Mine"

"I am worthy"

"I am with you"

"You are forgiven"

"You are gifted"

"You are a gift"

"I am peace"

"I am rest"

"You are beautiful"

He says it to you, too. 

~ "You shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." ~
Matthew 4:4

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Don't let yourself be ~ ooh, look!

"I will meditate on Your wonderful works"
Psalm 145:5

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that I generally read what my kids are reading.  Makes for easier discussion that way.  Some of the books I remember reading when I was in school, and it's fun to read them again, getting something new out of it, and being able to discuss it with them.

But other books are new to me.  Sometimes they're included in the curriculum we use, other times they've been recommended, so I read them, and then maybe have one or both of my kids read them.

One of these books that's new to me is a book about World War II.  It's called Number the Stars and it's by Lois Lowry.  It's about a Danish family living through the German occupation of Denmark.  The heroine, ten-year-old Annemarie, is best friends with a Jewish girl, and helps her best friend Ellen, and Ellen's parents, escape to Sweden, via Annemarie's Uncle Henrik's fishing boat.  {That was confusing; didja get all that?}

There was an interesting tidbit at the end, as the family escapes Denmark.  The Nazi soldiers were aware that Jews were being ferried across the Baltic Sea, so soldiers with dogs would frequently show up for unannounced inspections of the fishing boats.  The fishermen tried hiding their human cargo under false floorboards, and even covering the deck with fish, but the dogs could still smell the people even through the smell of fish.

And then somehow the fishermen discovered a clever trick to play on the soldiers.  The fishermen all brought their lunches from home, and the soldiers would callously "inspect" their lunches, and then feed them to their dogs.  So the fisherman start adding a handkerchief (to be used as a napkin, ostensibly) to their lunch baskets.  These handkerchiefs had been dipped in a little bit of rabbit's blood, and inside, there was a small amount of cocaine ~ coca leaves.  The rabbit's blood was to attract the dog to sniff further, and the cocaine would temporarily dull their sense of smell.  Then, as they explored the boats, they would not be able to react to the hidden Jews.

Isn't that amazing?  I'm fascinated by the cleverness, and I wonder how someone first discovered this.  Did the soldiers not know at all about the effects of the coca plant, or did it just not occur to them that this might be happening?  Where did the cocaine, or the coca leaves come from?  Does it grow in that part of the world?  I guess it's all part of how God worked in mysterious ways to enable people to do heroic things during a tragic time in history.

Attraction, followed by distraction.  It's a clever and successful ploy.   It's certainly a method I used when my kids were little.  A stubbed toe?  A little juice will do the trick.  Attracts the child, and then distracts them as the pain lessens.

But it got me to wondering how often our enemy "fools" us in a similar way.  Take something as similar as TV.  Sometimes it's attractive even when it's off!  The room that the TV is in has all the chairs facing that way, right?  So if you sit down in one of those chairs, even if you weren't planning on watching TV,  it's tempting you.  Pretty soon you decide to just "check and see what's on" and before you know it, you've wasted an hour.  And I'm pretty sure that's not what God wanted you to accomplish that day.

Now let's go even deeper.  What is God trying to work on, in your heart or in your mind?  What would He have you meditating on?  How would He like to commune with you?  If our minds are on Him, there's nothing He can't do.  He could give us glimpses into unfathomable mysteries, or gift us with unexpected theological wisdom, if we'd quit being distracted by "what movie should we see" and "they're both on sale; which one should I get?"  But instead we are attracted to something that dulls our thinking; numbs our hearts and minds.

Those dogs had a job to do, and responding to the distraction of those handkerchiefs kept them from being able to do it.  We can't let anything ~ no matter how attractive ~ distract us from Him.

~ "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; 
meditate on it day and night, 
so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  
Then you will be prosperous and successful."~
Joshua 1:8

Friday, August 19, 2011

Algebraic Compassion

"comfort with the comfort we ourselves receive"
2 Corinthians 1:4

I studied 1 and 2 Corinthians a few years ago, and this was a verse that really stuck out to me.  Together with verse 3, it tells us that God is "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble, with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  The key to this verse is that God comforts us, and then we are expected to turn around and comfort others, the way we were comforted.

Going through a trial or affliction teaches us.  And one of the things we learn is how best to help someone else going through that same thing.  Ten years ago, on the day we moved out of our old house, the Apple of my Eye had to work.  We had family and some friends helping us, but it was definitely a day that needed to be covered in prayer.  I had a meeting I had to go to first thing that morning, before picking up the rental truck, and my friends prayed for me before I left.  I'll never forget how touched I was by those prayers, because there were things prayed for, that I would never have thought to pray about.   But there were many women there who had been through it, so they knew the details.  And yes, it was a comfort to me, and yes, the day went unbelievably smoothly.

And we all know the frustration of loving someone who's struggling in some way, and you just can't even imagine it.  We can feel helpless in how to encourage them or what to do for them.  But a struggle you've walked through?  You know just what to do, just what to say, just what to pray.

I thought of this verse today.  The trial my loved one was going through?  ~ Algebra.  It was my Awesome Girl, and the subject was giving her trouble today.  She called me to come help her, and I sat down next to her at the table.  I worked a problem through for her, and then she started to do one on her own.  But I realized that if she got stuck on a step, I wouldn't very easily be able to help her, unless I knew every step of that problem.  So I had to work the problem through, too.  Then we could compare steps, and if she had one wrong, we'd be able to tell immediately.  It was my job to get her through her struggle, and the only way for me to do it, was to walk through it with her.

What a gift to us, that Jesus walked the earth.  He experienced temptation; He felt pain; He knew loss, abandonment and betrayal.  His understanding enables Him to comfort us in our troubles, and then pass that comfort and understanding to others ~ in pain, in loss, or in algebra.

~ "Love one another,
as I have loved you" ~
John 13:34

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Can I see some I.D. please?

"a servant of Christ Jesus, 
called to be an apostle, 
and set apart for the gospel of God"
Romans 1:1

This verse is Paul talking.  He is writing a letter to the church in Rome, to introduce himself to a people he longs to meet.  If I were writing a letter to introduce myself, I doubt I would begin it this way.

Think about how we begin letters to people we've never met, like: "Dear Sirs" or "To Whom it May Concern" or something.  The opening sentence would be fairly formal.  We would tell the recipient whatever information pertains to the body of the letter; or that introduces the reason for writing; or something about us that implies why the recipients should care what we have to say.

Paul's introduction here was to a church.  So his Christianity was a pertinent opening to this letter.  But there's more than just accuracy there, there is passion, too.  For a long time, when I read Paul's epistles, I would practically skim the opening sentence, and even the closing sentence.  "The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you ... blah blah.... whatever," I'd be thinking, "get to the point!"

But the Holy Author of the Bible included every word for a reason.  So we have good reason to pay close attention to the words Paul uses to refer to himself:

       • a servant of Christ Jesus
       • called to be an apostle
       • set apart for the gospel of God

It's not bragging about his exalted position in the kingdom; this is not about Paul's resume.  It is a humble offering of himself, and an honest realization of all that God has for him to do on earth.

Are you, am I, are all these things?  As a servant of Christ Jesus, I need to repeatedly renew my desire to serve my Master.  We are each called to be an apostle, a loyal and devoted follower of God.  Some may be better than others, but no one can out-loyal anyone else!  And we are to be set apart for the gospel of God - consecrated for His use for the furtherance of His kingdom.  We identify ourselves in many different ways, in many different scenarios, but none are more important than these.

I am both His servant and His heir; His daughter and His bride.

Who are you?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fond Memories

"children of God"
1 John 3:1

When my Amazing Boy was 5 years old, his sister, my Awesome Girl, was in 3rd grade.  She was not home-schooled at the time (she was school-schooled, you understand) and her school was competing with several other schools in the area, to practice public speaking.  Each student had to memorize a passage of Scripture, or a poem, or one of Aesop's fables.  Then they performed them for their class, and then two from each class (or each grade, I forget) competed against their grade-level equivalents from the other participating schools.  Well, this whole process lasted a few months.  They had several weeks to practice for their class, and then more weeks, to keep practicing before the inter-school competition.  So naturally, Awesome Girl had to practice saying her piece (a fable) several times a day, every day.

And, before we knew it, Amazing Boy had memorized her piece, too.  After she recited it to us, then he'd pipe up and recite it too.   Naturally, we got an enormous kick out of this.  The teacher that was running the competition was a friend of ours, so we shared with her that our son had memorized the piece simply from hearing his sister recite it so often.  She loved it too, and a few days before the competition, she asked Amazing Boy to recite it in front of the entire assembly.  He was scared, but he agreed.

When the day came, he bravely went up onstage, his big sister with him for moral support.  The teacher introduced him, and told him to go ahead when he was ready.

He took a deep breath...

... and broke out in the giggles.

So she helped him start again, he got one sentence spoken, tripped over one of his words, and began giggling again.

Naturally the crowd loved it.  There were probably five or six hundred people there, and they laughed along with him, and made little "awww" noises.   He false-started another couple of times, breaking up into adorable 5-year-old giggles, and then grabbed his sister's hand for courage.  That was what he needed, and he then spoke the whole piece nearly perfectly.   When he was all done, he ran offstage to the hearty applause of the audience, and into my arms.

I, of course, loved it.  Hubby and I were enormously proud of him.  Hubby had video-taped the whole thing, and I still have the video clip on my computer desktop.  Every once in awhile, I'll play it again, and six years later, I still love it.  It makes me laugh, and it makes me proud.   His courage, his perseverance, and the joy he has always exhibited, in good times and in hard times.  It's one of my favorite memories of his childhood.

But it's not one of his.  Recently we played a game where he had to tell his most embarrassing memory, and that was it.   I was so surprised, because there was really nothing he had to be embarrassed about.  A five year old, speaking in front of hundreds of people, being nervous, and those nerves manifesting themselves in giggling?  Completely understandable, right?  If you were there, you'd have found it charming, not embarrassing, right?  But he doesn't see it that way.

And I sometimes wonder if this is how God sees us.  We look back at times that were difficult for some reason, and those are not our fond memories.  Maybe they're embarrassing, maybe they're painful, but I think God just loves them.  He knows those are the times when we exhibited courage or boldness or perseverance or faith.  "Look at how much you grew," He might say to us, "I am so proud of you!"

It's so hard to change our perception of something.  When someone compliments us, it's hard to believe them, because we think we see it more accurately.  But that doesn't make us right.  And seeing things from His view is even harder.  I think that calls for faith.  We love a God of joy, compassion and forgiveness, whose desire is for us to grow.  We are His beloved, and He uses all things for good ~ even the things we think were bad.

~ "Behold, what manner of love 
the Father has bestowed on us, 
that we should be called children of God!" ~
1 John 3:1

Lessons from my MacBook

"to proclaim freedom for the captives 
and to release the prisoners from darkness"
Isaiah 61:1

I learned a lesson today.  And it's a lesson the Apple of my Eye has tried to teach me many times.   But it has to do with the computer, and it always takes me several repetitions to learn something on the computer. He's very tech-savvy, my Hubby.  Once, when my laptop was acting up, and he'd exhausted all his ideas on what the problem might be, we took it to the Apple Store at the mall.  Now, you know what they call the guys who help people with their computers?  Geniuses.  Don't you love that?  Such shameless chutzpah.  Make an appointment with a Genius at the Genius Bar, that's what you gotta do.

So we went in and talked to the Genius, and he was stumped.  He couldn't figure out what was causing the problem, either.  Asked me a lot of questions about when it acted up, were there any patterns to it, what programs I might have been in, was it on battery or plugged in at the time, etc.  But the genius didn't know.  Said we should take it home, back everything up, and bring it back for the Mac equivalent of a lube job and oil change.  So we left.  But the Apple of my Eye had been sitting there listening to me answer Mr Genius' questions, and all of a sudden there was a lightbulb over his head.   We got home, and he pushed a few buttons, changed a preference or two, programmed a new.... program.  {In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you here that I have absolutely no idea what he did.  Which is probably patently obvious to you.}  And the problem was solved.  So, I told you all that so you'd understand that my Hubby is even more tech-savvy than the Apple Genius.  What's more genius than genius?

Me?  Not so much.  So when I have computer issues (which are generally me, not the computer) he patiently walks me through it.

But he was at work today, and my computer was running painfully slowly.  So I figured I had to re-start.  Which I hate.  Cuz I often have several screens open at once.  So to shut down, I have to bookmark all those pages, or save them or whatever.  Close up iTunes, close up iPhoto (any wonder my computer runs slowly?)  I get everything closed up, and then decide that as long as I'm cleaning things up, I should empty the Trash, too.  Or is it the iTrash?  When you delete something, you put it in the little trashcan at the bottom of the screen, but still the system holds on to it, in case you change your mind, until you actually select "Empty Trash". So I clicked on that.

And then I proceeded to sit and watch my computer take several minutes to go through that process.

Oh.  Guess it's been awhile since I did that.

And then, on a hunch, I didn't even bother doing a re-start.  I just started opening up my regular programs, and I couldn't believe how fast it was going.  It was all that trash that was slowing down my system.  Stuff I thought I'd gotten rid of, but really hadn't.  Out of sight, out of mind, though it was still affecting the efficiency of my computer.

I started to wonder if maybe we sometimes need to empty the trash that's clogging up our lives.   Mentally, or spiritually, what am I still dragging around with me?

Sometimes I think we haven't totally let go of the guilt of past sins.  God has forgiven, but we haven't forgotten.  Let it go.

We also spend time worrying about things that are not our business ~ they're His.  Do not worry about tomorrow, for today has troubles enough of its own.  Anxious about the future?  Discard your worries.

How about whatever God is working on in us?  Each of us has issues that God needs to work on, to make us more like Him.  He'll guide us there, in our prayer and Bible-reading time, if we let Him.  And if we're not too concerned with what we'd like to change about ourselves.  Empty yourself of you.

Let Him free you from what's making you drag.  The 25th chapter of Leviticus tells us about the Year of Jubilee, when the land was to be rested, debts were to be forgiven, and unredeemed slaves were to be released.  The whole nation of Israel essentially started fresh.  Wouldn't you love that feeling?  Well, you know as well as I do we're not getting that forgiveness from our creditors.  But we can get it from Him.

~ "It is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you" ~
Leviticus 25:12

Monday, August 15, 2011

And the winner is....

"worthy to receive glory and honor"
Revelation 4:11

Recently I was channel-surfing ~ the only kind of surfing I can do, by the way ~ and noticed there was an awards show on TV.  I started to think about how many of these are on every year.  Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Grammys.... those used to be it.  But now MTV has something, and I think Nickelodeon has something, and even the topics already covered ~ like movies ~ are covered more than once.  Not only are there Oscars, but the Golden Globes, and the Screen Actors Guild and who knows what else.

I used to like watching these.  It was fun to see the dresses the women were wearing, and how they had done their hair, etc.  And for a long time, I had my opinion on the winners and losers.  That's not what I would have chosen, I liked that one better, etc.   But I watch so few movies these days.  My tastes have changed, and most of them aren't worth it, and a lot of them are downright offensive.  And I'm not that interested in TV either.  A few shows on Food Network or HGTV, and a lot of baseball games, but not really any sitcoms or dramas.  Talk about offensive....

But they just keep on doing awards shows.  Each one of them, once a year, celebrating the best of the previous year.  (Or the worst, in the case of the Razzies.)  And I'm thinking this would be a great idea.  I'd like to start doing this, in my life, or in the lives of those close to me.  A birthday is an example of a once-a-year celebration that we all know well.  But that's focused on a person; I'm thinking more of accomplishments.  And New Years' is a time when we think about accomplishments, but they are accomplishments we'd like to.... accomplish.  It's forward-looking.  This would be a celebration of things past.

What would that look like?  Imagine looking back at your achievements over the past year.  They wouldn't all have to be good things even, because you can definitely celebrate getting through something difficult.  Or look back at special days.  Memorable, every-day days.

But, of course, credit would have to be given where credit is due.  So these awards would all go to God.

Creator of the Most Fun Day?  ~ God
Provider of the Best Meal? ~ God
Giver of strength on a difficult day?  ~ God
Bringer of peace in a time of anxiety? ~ God
Best rainbow? ~ God
Most beautiful cloud formation? ~ God
Best miracle? ~ God

How much would God appreciate our looking back, and remembering what He has done?  Cuz let's be honest.  We have a tendency to entirely forget to thank Him, and an even worse habit of taking the credit  for things.  I mean, not rainbows, of course.  We just give the sun and rain the credit for that, like rainbows were their idea...

I think we are so encouraged when we look back at what He has done.  Someone once said that hindsight is 20/20.  When we look back, we see more clearly than when we look ahead.  So I'm going to make a note of those days.  Write them down, and then look back ~ on my birthday, or on New Years Day, or maybe on Thanksgiving, or maybe even every August 15th.   Doesn't so much matter what day, nor does it matter how fancy my dress is.   But He'll be there, and if I could see Him, He'd be clothed in shimmering white, surrounded by a rainbow that shines like an emerald.  And He'd accept my praise, because He is worthy.

Facts are facts, whether we acknowledge them or not.  He is ~ He does ~ He will do.  And He deserves to be celebrated for that.

~ "You are worthy, our Lord and God, 
to receive glory and honor and power, 
for You created all things, and by Your will they were created" ~
Revelation 4:11

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stay hungry, my friends

"eat what is good, 
and you will delight in the richest of fare"
Isaiah 55:2

We went to another wedding a few days ago.  This was the last of the season for us.  We haven't been to this many weddings in one year, in a long time.  It's such a wonderful reminder that while things might look bleak nationally or internationally, God is always doing sweet and wonderful things on a small scale.

This wedding was an amazingly elegant affair.  Held at a tony resort along the coast, overlooking the ocean, with attentive wait-staff, and an amazing dinner.  The hors d'oeuvres included white truffle macaroni and cheese in a small silver spoon; shrimp in a spicy cocktail sauce; goat cheese with sun-dried tomato; and chicken and leek pastries.  Servers were circling with champagne and tall glasses of pink lemonade.   When we got to the dining room, it just got better.  Our appetizer was ahi tuna with a wasabi cream sauce, followed by the salad ~ field greens with goat cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette.  The entree choices were chicken or a vegetarian option, or the one Hubby and I chose ~ filet mignon with a mushroom wine sauce, diced Yukon gold potatoes, roasted tomato, spinach and tempura-battered enoki mushroom.  The slice of wedding cake we each received was either tropical coconut with a passionfruit creme filling, or vanilla cake with strawberry-mascarpone filling.

I know.  You'd like a minute to compose yourself right now, wouldn't you?  You're grabbing a kleenex to take care of that little drooling thing you've got going.  Like some water, too?  Put something in your stomach to combat the growling?

And even though we danced at the reception, it wasn't enough to work off what I'd eaten.  I didn't feel stuffed, but I definitely felt full.  Wonderfully satiated.  Feeling that pleasant feeling of contentment that I love so much.  Then I had a good night's sleep, and you know how I felt the next morning, when I woke up?


Isn't that astounding?  And yet, at the same time, not surprising.  Because no matter how much we enjoy a meal, we're going to need to eat again in a matter of hours.  I'm not sure why God decided to create our bodies that way.  And sometimes I find it hard that we work that way, because it can mean I'm preparing a meal for my family, even when I feel like I just finished doing that.  But I also like it, because I like eating.  When you enjoy food, it makes mealtime a pleasure, and I thank Him for wanting us to have that pleasure several times a day.

The important lesson here is that this is how we work spiritually, too.  God does not want us to go too long without being spiritually fed.  He wants us hungry, and then He wants to fill us with His finest.  Wisdom and grace and love and knowledge, every time we sit down to the banquet of His Word.  But it's not meant to hold us for long.   We need to need Him.

We get to go out to lunch tomorrow.  We are joining both sets of parents in a celebration of all three wedding anniversaries.   It's at a restaurant we've never been to, but I've looked at the menu on their website, and I'm looking forward to it.  The food looks delicious.  I don't know what I'm going to order, but it's an exciting feeling to know that when the time comes, I can sit down and choose whatever suits my fancy.  So many options.

When we sit at His feet, the option is His.  He looks into our lives and sees what we are missing, and He fills us up.   And then He causes us to hunger, and waits for us to come again.

~ "He humbled you, causing you to hunger, 
and then feeding you with manna...
 to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, 
but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" ~
Deuteronomy 8:3

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This and every day

"from this day forward, I will bless you"
Haggai 2:19

The Lord spoke these words to you 
at the very beginning 
of your life on earth.  
You were His from the beginning, 
fearfully and wonderfully made, 
and He promised His blessings upon you, 
from that day, until forever.

The Lord also spoke these words to you 
on the day you accepted His gift of eternal life.  
The angels sang 
to welcome the Spirit of the Lord into your heart, 
and the Lord promised to bless you 
from that day, until forever.

This day, 
the Lord proclaims this to you.  
What joy, what comfort 
this promise should bring to you.  
You are His, 
and He will bless you, 
from now until forever.

~ "This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad" ~
Psalm 118:24

Friday, August 12, 2011

The more you need, the more you lack

"at home in my palace, contented and prosperous"
Daniel 4:4

I love the word "content".  It's the combination of "happy" and "at peace".  It covers both outward emotion and inner feeling.  It's what we all should strive for, but it also can be very hard to achieve.

Part of what makes it hard to be content, is that the world is telling us all the things we need to be so:  the right jeans, the right mascara, the right phone service, on and on and on...  But there's a saying I love, by the Greek philosopher Epicurus:  "Nothing is enough for the man for whom enough is not enough."

So today, I'm feeling content.  Here's why.  I've just celebrated my wedding anniversary.  The Apple of my Eye, and I, have been married for 21 wonderful years.  In the next couple of days, his parents will celebrate their 44th, and my parents will celebrate their 51st.  I am married to my best friend, and we have great examples to follow.  What more could I ask for?

Our anniversary dinner did not include any of our favorite restaurants.  Just not in the budget this year.  But our Awesome Girl and Amazing Boy made us dinner.  Candlelight, the fancy silverware, and the sodas of our choice in our wedding stemware.  How sweet and thoughtful are these kids?  They're healthy, smart and beautiful; they love the Lord, and they think of others.  What more could I ask for?

After dinner the four of us sat down to watch one of our favorite shows in TV.  We didn't go to the theater, we didn't attend a sporting event, we just enjoyed our comfortable, cozy home, and each other.  And I really didn't want for anything more.

There are a lot of question marks in our future.  Times are tough, and we're getting through one day, and one week at a time.   And God knows (literally!) that I pray every day for solutions to some of the challenges we are facing.   But every day, when it comes right down to it, I have what I need.  A home, my family, health, and trust in the One who will take care of the future.  Blessings now, and promises for the future.  I have what I need to be content.

~ "content to stay at home" ~
Genesis 25:27

~ "I have calmed and quieted myself... I am content" ~
Psalm 131:2

~ "The righteous eat to their hearts' content" ~
Proverbs 13:25

~ "The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content,
 untouched by trouble" ~
Proverbs 19:23

~ "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" ~
Philippians 4:11

~ "Keep your lives free from the love of money
 and be content with what you have,
because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you' "~
Hebrews 13:5

Thursday, August 11, 2011


"God called the light Day, 
and the darkness He called night."
Genesis 1:5

What are your favorite things in life?  Experiences, smells, sights, sounds?  And how often do you get to experience them?

I love peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.  How often I have it is completely up to me.  I have to make the decision to spend money on it, and then I have to decide how much I have when I pull it out of my freezer, but it's all up to me.

I love Kauai.  I've only visited once, but I love its sand, and its sky and its ocean and its plants. I love its colors, its sights and smells.  And lucky for me, Kauai is just right over there.  Well, a few hours away by plane, but it's there.  It's not going anywhere, and the only impediment to my getting there is my bank account.  Or, I could sell my house and move there.  It's all up to me.

And I love the trees outside my window.  Out my dining room, I can see my apple tree; out the family room windows, I can see a rubber tree, and a bit of bougainvillea;  and out my living room, I can see tall, tall eucalyptus trees.   The view changes with the seasons, of course, and even with the time of day.  But whenever I sit down and look out the window, I feel a sense of peace, and I breathe a little sigh of contentment.  And how often am I able to do that?  Depends how busy my day is.  Sometimes my work can be done from my chair ~ reading for the kids schoolwork, any work I can do on my laptop ~ but even on days when I'm busy with different areas of the house, or out of the house entirely, I can start off, and come back to, the view out my windows.  It's all up to me.

But one of the things I love, that isn't up to me, is the sunset.  I love sunsets.

I love sunsets on cloudy days, and sunsets on blue sky days.

No two sunsets are quite the same.

I only get one a day, and I only get it in the evening.  And if I miss one, that one's gone forever.

And somehow, the fact that the sunset is beyond my control, makes it more precious to me.

I appreciate them, I think, because each one is a gift from Him.

What do you thank Him for, every day?

~ "Stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord,
and likewise at evening" ~
1 Chronicles 23:30

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When moving up means moving out

"They all wept as they embraced and kissed him"
Acts 20:37

Man, transitions are hard, aren't they?  Even the good ones...

We were at a party today.  A good-bye party for a young man headed off to college.  It's so exciting to see him beginning a new chapter, but it's certainly hard for his friends and family who are left behind.  Oh, yes, he'll be home for Christmas, and there's telephone and email and texting and skyping and various other forms of "social media" that are beyond me, but it's just not... you know.... the same.

And the wonderful young couple whose wedding I told you about a few weeks ago, have moved.  Pursuing a higher education in another state.  We've been attending church together for a few years now, and it will be hard not to see them on a regular basis.  I know, it's not like we're never gonna see them again, but it's just not... you know.... the same.

And I met two amazing young women at this party tonight.  Both are at transitional places in life, making decisions about their education, and praying for God's guidance on where and when.  It can be daunting, to make life-changing decisions, because for good or bad, it's just not gonna be.... you know... the same.

Weddings, graduations, divorces, job changes... life is full of "moving on".   Why is something that's such a part of life, something that's expected in life, so hard?  I don't think we want things to stay the same forever.   There's no way I want to return to the diaper-changing stage of being a mother, and yet I look back fondly at when my children were babies.

And we strive to make transitions with grace and strength and courage.  But what does that mean?  When our young friend leaves this week for college, you think his mother's gonna try her hardest to swallow her tears?  Get that enormous lump in her throat, and that catch in her voice that's gonna give her away?  I think so.  Think she's gonna lose the battle, and end up just giving in to the tears?  Probably.    And her son would expect nothing less.  A good son understands his momma.

Have you ever read Paul's account of leaving the church in Ephesus?  It's in Acts 20.  " 'Now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there... I know that none of you will ever see me again... keep watch over yourselves and all the flock... Be shepherds.... be on your guard.... Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace....' When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.  They all wept as they embraced and kissed him.  What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.  Then they accompanied him to the ship."

I love the honesty in this passage.  You can feel the pain that Paul and the Ephesian elders have as they make this transition.  And they had no problem sharing that.  They prayed, they wept, they embraced, they kissed, they grieved.... and they took the next step.   They accompanied him to the ship.  That's the key.  Do the next thing.  That's what He asks of us, is to simply do what He has brought us to.   That's faith.  That's obedience.

And don't worry a bit about the tears.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who does He say you are?

"he who overcomes"
Revelation 21:7

Okay, my thoughts today are really a continuation of the past couple of days, so if you haven't read those posts, you might want to.  Yesterday's was on who God is, and the day before was on who we are.  Today's is almost a combination of those.

The Book of Revelation has numerous, beautiful descriptions of God, which I celebrated yesterday.  But it also has reminders and promises of who we are.  When you think, as we did a couple days ago, of how the world sees you, and how you see you, you also need to be aware of how He sees you.

When God makes promises to us, there is a response called for on our part.  Accepting those promises means acting in accordance with who He says we are.  The healed man would never have known he was healed, if he hadn't been obedient to Jesus' command to pick up his mat and walk.

This... is who Revelation says we are:

We are His servants… blessed for reading, and hearing, and keeping those things written in this book… Loved and washed from our sins, in His blood.

We are kings and priests to our God and Father… partakers in the tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ… not tolerating those who are evil… testing those who say they are apostles, and are not.

We are persevering… have patience… and are laboring for His name’s sake.  We have not become weary.

We are overcomers to whom He will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

We will suffer, we will be tested, we will have tribulation… but if we are faithful unto death, we will receive the crown of life. 

We hold fast to His name, and do not deny His faith, though we are surrounded by those who blaspheme, and commit sexual immorality, and hold to a doctrine of heresy. 

We are saints… Kings… priests… Servants… brethren…

We are those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ… We are the Redeemed…

We are followers of the Lamb… firstfruits to God and to the Lamb; without deceit and without fault before the throne of God

We are those who have victory over the beast… having harps of God, singing the song of Moses, the servant of God; and the song of the Lamb

We are with Him… called… chosen… faithful… blessed

We are those called to the marriage supper of the Lamb… who have testimony of Jesus

We are those with whom He will dwell… the bride… the wife of the Lamb…

We are those who do His commands, who keep the words of this book… righteous and holy…. We are those who thirst… we are those who hear… who shall reign with Him forever and ever…

~ "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, 
and I will be his God and he shall be My son." ~
Revelation 21:7