Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm so glad I did.

"It is not good that man should be alone"
Genesis 2:18

Okay, that's not me saying that.  It was God.  I tease the Apple of my Eye sometimes, reminding him of this verse when he's forgotten where we keep the extra kleenex or something.  But the truth is, we are both better off for being together.  We were flying home from our Thanksgiving vacation recently, and had a flight delay.  We ended up sitting in the Phoenix airport for a few hours.  And I told him how glad I was that we were all together.  When I'm with the Apple of my Eye, difficult things feel like an adventure, and I find reasons to laugh. 

I am so glad that God decreed that this man I love should not be alone.  It is my privilege to be his helpmate, his companion, his best friend, his love.  This marriage was known to God from the beginning.  He decided during creation that this man should not be alone, and He decided as He planned and orchestrated the creation of the earth, that I should be the one for him.

God tells us in Ecclesiastes that we two together, are better than either one of us alone.  Malachi 2:14 says that the Lord made us one, and that in flesh and spirit, we are His.  I love to know that from the beginning of time, God knew that we would be together, and I love to think that He rejoices in this marriage, and every marriage where He is Lord.

~ "Love is patient, love is kind.  
It does not envy, it does not boast, 
it is not proud.  It is not rude, 
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, 
it keeps no record of wrongs.  
Love does not delight in evil 
but rejoices with the truth.  
It always protects, always trusts, 
always hopes, always perseveres.  
Love never fails." ~
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God's Positioning System

"do not turn aside 
to the right or to the left"
Deuteronomy 5:32

Did a little travelin’ today.  Hubby and the kids and I traveled to a town we’ve never been to before.  Fortunately we had the GPS helping us along.  Man, what did people do before GPS?  I guess we found our way on a map beforehand, then tried to follow that.  Lots of room for mistakes that way, though.  And then, of course, ya gotta fold the thing afterwards…

So we had the GPS, and the lady telling us what to do at every step.  It’s so helpful.  “In one mile, turn right onto Route 349…. In a quarter mile, turn right onto Route 349… In 400 yards, turn right onto Route 349… Turn right immediately.”

Now here’s the thing:  when she said “immediately” the immediate right was a driveway into a shopping center.  I wasn’t driving, the Apple of my Eye was.  So I wasn’t paying close attention to the road.  I was looking around at the scenery, looking at things left and right and front.  So when she said “immediately,” it caught me off guard, and when my husband didn’t make that “immediate” turn, my heart jumped a little, and I thought hurriedly, “turn!”   But, of course he didn’t, cuz he was paying attention. 

I can be very literal, so I thought to myself, "she shouldn't say 'immediately' if she doesn't mean 'immediately.' "  But then I realized, she'd told us about five times that we were headed for Route 349.  All we have to do is know that that was our focus, and then our common sense can do the rest. 

Well folks, God's Word is that GPS.  We are so very fortunate to have His directions ~ in print, in every bookstore, in dozens of versions, and uncountable cover choices.   And yet every day we need to make decisions that aren't covered.  But if we know our focus, our common sense can do the rest.  For example ~ and this is a very extreme example ~ Exodus 20:15 says "You shall not steal."  So if a circumstance comes up where you find a wallet on the street, and you're wondering if you should keep it or not, you don't need a commandment that says, "You shall not keep a wallet you find a grocery store parking lot."  He's already covered it. 

Now, it's a big book, so you might say, "How can I know everything it says?"  Well, Jesus said the two greatest commandments are "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."  That's a good start for ya.  But it also says, "Give me understanding... incline my heart to Your testimonies... Establish Your word to Your servant." (Psalm 119:34-38)  We need to make it our goal to learn, memorize and understand as much of His Word as we can.  For as long as we live.  

Hearing Him is not always easy.  But it's also not as complicated as we sometimes make it. He wants to guide us; He wants us in His will.  And the better you know His will, the better you'll know how to be in it.

~ Your Word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light to my path" ~
Psalm 119:105

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are the stars out tonight?

I love that song.  "Are the stars out tonight?  I don't know if it's cloudy or bright.  Cuz I only have eyes for you..."  It was made famous by Frank Sinatra, but I think it goes back all the way to the 30s.  I don't even know the whole song, but I can't look up at the stars without thinking of that first line.

"Look up at the sky and count the stars ~ 
if indeed you can count them."
Genesis 15:5

I thought of that song tonight, and then I thought of this verse:

"He determines the number of stars 
and calls them each by name"
Psalm 147:4

I happened to notice the stars tonight, because there were so very many of them.  More than I'm used to seeing.  We're away from home tonight, so the stars look different from they do at home.  More of them. I mean, there's not more than there is at home, but I'm out of the city a little more, and I'm able to see a lot more of them.

"Is God not in the heights of heaven?  
And see how lofty are the highest stars!"
Job 22:12

I noticed all those stars this evening, and I found myself comforted in knowing that, even though I can't always see them, they are there.  As is their Creator.  Always there.

"I consider Your heavens, 
the work of Your fingers, 
the moon and stars, 
which You have set in place"
Psalm 8:3

Light.  Serenity.  Peace.  Sacred.  Created.
And I just wanted to thank Him.

"Praise Him, sun and moon; 
  praise Him all you shining stars"
Psalm 148:3

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are we near an In-N-Out?

"He is our God, 
and we are the flock under His care"
Psalm 95:7

My family had to go to Los Angeles last week.  We were visiting family, which means we've been to that part of LA many times, but we actually got lost.  Well, not lost, technically, but we weren't where we wanted to be.  We changed freeways when we shouldn't have, or missed changing freeways when we should have, or something...  As I've mentioned before, direction is not my strong suit...

When the Apple of my Eye realized that we weren't on the right freeway, he said something along the lines of "oops," but that was it.  No frustration or anxiety about how to undo this mistake, because although we don't live in Los Angeles, we've been there often enough that he knows the freeway systems very well.  So even though I didn't know where we were, or how to get home from there, I wasn't worried, because I trusted him.  He even said to me, "all we have to do is take the 110 to the 101, which connects to the 405, south of the 605, which also connects to the 5, but that's farther north, blah, blah..." {Blogger's note:  He didn't say the "blah, blah" part, but that's what it was starting to sound like in my head.  Did I mention I'm not good with directions?}

Over the past 25 years, husband has proven to me over and over again that he is trustworthy.  While I'm sure I don't always appreciate that as much as I should, when I am appreciating it, I am also thinking of God.   Almost every day, something happens to remind me that my life is not in my control.  And the older ~ I mean:  more mature ~ I get, the more I'm able to refuse delivery on anxiety and worry, and simply wait to see how the Lord is going to work everything out.

The Lord expects us to make plans, and make decisions, but He also knows we are going to make mistakes, and get ourselves lost.  And though it will take effort on our part to get ourselves out of the mess we are in, if we let Him, He will guide.  I don't know why, but He cares greatly about us.  And the more we trust Him, the more we will appreciate how trustworthy He is.

~ "Lord, what are human beings 
that You care for them, 
mere mortals that You think of them?" ~
Psalm 144:3

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lessons from an Awesome Girl

It's Thanksgiving weekend, and I am enjoying lovely time with family, so I have again asked my Awesome Girl to step in and share with you.  Enjoy! 


Ok I’m going to talk about music again. 
Sorry about that :)

If you know Taylor Swift’s music, you know that her last two albums were called Fearless, and Speak Now. So I’m going to use the names two albums as the point of this blog post.

How often do you evangelize? I have to say that I have never done it except a couple times on a game on my iPod with chat boxes. I think that a lot of times people don’t do it because they’re afraid of what people will think of them. I know I do! 
But instead of thinking about how other people perceive us, we need to be FEARLESS and let people know about the wonderful thing Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. Our life on this earth is short and we need to SPEAK NOW before our time has run out. God put us here on this earth to tell the good news.
Mark 16:16 says that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
The punishment for not believing, is spending eternity forever in hell.
 "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15

So are you going to be FEARLESS and SPEAK NOW?

Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Blessed by His provision

"all nations on earth will be blessed"
Genesis 22:18

This passage in Genesis is very important to you.  It's between Abraham and God, but you ~ and I ~ are the recipients of the blessings mentioned on verse 18.

But let's back up.  This is the chapter in which Abraham is willing to obey God's instruction to sacrifice his only son to God.  They have made the journey up to Mount Moriah, and God then intervened, and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice.  It's a beautiful passage and pretty well-known, but if you are not familiar with it, I encourage you to read it and study it to get all you can out of it.   The greatest thing you can get out of this passage, is the Lord as Jehovah-Jireh ~ He who provides.  That was the name that Abraham gave to that place, in recognition not only of God providing the sacrifice, but having given Abraham his son in the first place.

And then, in verse 15, the Angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham, and God swears, on Himself, that He will keep the covenant that He made with Abraham some time ago.  He speaks of glory and abundance as only He can.   In verse 17:  "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply... as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore..."  Do you appreciate the enormity of that promise?

But then look at verse 18, and highlight it, if you haven't already.  "Because you have obeyed My voice," He said to Abraham, "in your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed."

That's you, my friend.   Blessed here on earth, with an option to upgrade to eternal blessing.  Because that's the "seed" of which God spoke.  His Son, coming to earth, and bringing the gift of eternal life for those who call Him "Lord" and acknowledge their need for Him as Savior.

Thank Him that He is Jehovah-Jireh.  Thank Him that He provides you uncountable blessings every day.  Thank Him for your loved ones, for a roof over your head, and for the freedom to read His Word.  Thank Him for the clothes you are wearing, and for the people who love you.

But thank Him first for this promise to Abraham.  Thank Him, that knowing all the things we would need on this earth, He made sure to provide us with what we would need when we leave earth.  Follow the genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew and see it lead to Jesus, the seed of Abraham, and the promised sacrifice, the Lamb of God.

Because He provided, you are blessed.

~ "God so loved the world 
that He gave His only Son, 
that whoever believes in Him would not perish, 
but would have everlasting life" ~
John 3:16

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lessons from an insect

"do not be entangled again"
Galatians 5:1

I had another experience today that seemed a good reminder, as the holiday season arrives.  I was over at my parents' house, and in their garage, as I was walking to the back door, something green and fluttering caught my eye.  When I went to investigate, I found a leaf bug.

He was a beautiful green, and I believe he had just entered the garage, as I'd seen him in the air a minute ago, but now he was on the floor, next to a stack of boxes, and he was caught in a spider's web.

It was obviously an old web.  Clearly Charlotte had abandoned this one.  It was only partially attached to the box; the rest was hanging free.  And the leaf bug's back leg was caught.  He was trying to walk away but he couldn't free himself.

My Awesome Girl, torn between her loathing of creepy crawly things, and her compassion for any living creature, went and got a stick, and helped him extricate himself from the web.  Then once she had him clinging to the stick, she carried him out to the garden.  When we checked back later, he was gone.  So, mission accomplished!

So how did this little adventure make me think of the holiday season?

The web.  An old web.  I think we have those in our lives, and I think they catch us off-guard.  And I think one place we are likely to come upon them is in gatherings with family.

You see, our families are the ones who have known us since the beginning.  They knew us when we were young and immature.  They saw the tantrums and heard the foolish words.  They knew us when we wanted to be an astronaut or a ballerina.  They might have even laughed at us in the past.  So we might hesitate to really be our true selves in front of them.  Will we be judged?  Will we be misunderstood?  Will they make fun of us for who we have become; for how different we are from who we used to be?  Afraid of showing them who we have become, we sometimes revert to how we used to act.  For some people it may be drinking alcohol, or drinking more than you think you should.  For others it might be language or off-color jokes that you no longer feel are appropriate.  Sometimes, when we get in the company of people who bring out the worst in us, sure enough, the worst comes out!

You are free.  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  Galatians 5:1 says "stand fast, therefore, in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again."  As the poor leaf bug was caught in an old web, do not be trapped by the things of old; by who you used to be.

As my children grow, I try to remind them of the pitfalls of peer pressure, one of which is pretending to be something different than who you are, in order to fit in.  I tell them, "Be who you are."

But I think that what I want to say to you today; the thing I remind myself is:  Be who you have become.

~ "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, 
the new creation has come:  
The old has gone, the new is here!" ~
2 Corinthians 5:17

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The season of light

"He separated the light from the darkness"
Genesis 1:4

I ate in the dark last week.  Don't ask.  I know, it's very strange, but there was a perfectly logical explanation.  At least, it's logical to me.  But it might not be for you, so you probably shouldn't even ask.  Unless you're someone who knows me, and understands me very well.  Then it will make sense to you.  But otherwise, nevermind.  Unless you're somewhat like me.   In which case, even if you don't know me very well, or at all, you'll probably understand.  But if you're not, then forget it.

So it was dark.  Fried chicken.  And some tortilla chips.  And water, which I brought myself.  But that's neither here nor there.  Have you ever tried to eat fried chicken in the dark?  It's a little tricky.  Cuz there's bones and stuff.  Ligaments or whatever.  Stuff you can't eat.  So you use your teeth to pull off the moist, juicy, delicious meat (am I making you hungry?) and then if you get a little piece of bone or tendon or ligament or gristle or whatever those things are that you can't eat ~ now you're not hungry anymore, right? sorry. ~ Anyhow, you just set those things  on the side of your plate.  But then, if you're not careful, you're liable to pick up one of these things, when you think you're picking up a tortilla chip or a little piece of chicken, and try to eat it, and find you can't.  

But I did okay.  Enjoyed the chicken, and the tortilla chips, and the water, which I brought myself.  But that's neither here nor there.   I did just fine eating my dinner in the dark, and here's why ~ I wasn't totally in the dark.  There was a streetlight nearby, and the lights of a couple nearby buildings.  I had the radio on in the car, and that was giving off a little light.  And the light that there was, kept it from really being dark.

See, darkness is a funny thing.  It's relative.  Generally speaking, no matter how dark it is, it could be darker.  I could have turned off the radio in my car, and lost the benefit of that light.  And what if the buildings I was near turned off their lights?  And then what if the streetlights went out?  Well, there would still be ambient light simply because I was in a city.  And if the city had a blackout?  Well, there still would have been stars.  So even though it seemed dark to me, I knew it could have been a whole lot darker, and I was grateful for the sufficient light I had.

I've only been in complete darkness a couple of times in my life, that I can remember.  Once, was camping.  I woke up in the middle of the night, and everyone had gone to bed.  There were no neighboring fires or lanterns or flashlights.  It was one of those moments where I couldn't even figure out where I was, but it only lasted a moment, and then my eyes adjusted enough to recognized the dark shape of my husband next to me in the dark tent.  So even that "complete" darkness wasn't "complete" once my eyes adjusted.

The other time was in a cave.  We'd done a bit of spelunking with a tour group, and when we were in there, the guide turned off the electricity in the cave.  Wow, was that dark.  I literally could not see my hand in front of my face.  It gave me a panicky feeling for a second ~ until I looked down at my watch.  The glow-in-the-dark face gave me some sense of depth perception somehow, which seemed to make a difference.  And then tour guide turned the lights back on before I really had the chance to see if my eyes would adjust to what seemed like total blackness.

A little light makes all the difference.  He knew that.  He knows that.  Do you?

In the United States, we are getting ready to celebrate "the holidays".  Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Year's Day.  And Hanukkah is in there, too, for the approximately 2% of Americans who are Jewish.  I know that many of you outside the U.S. celebrate Christmas, though your traditions may be different than they are in America.  And many of you may have a holiday similar to our Thanksgiving, but maybe not on the 4th Thursday in November.   At any rate, it's a busy time for most Americans.  There are parties with friends, and get-togethers with families.   There are also lines to wait in with complete strangers as we shop.   Any of these situations might prove to be stressful in a season in which we are also dealing with a full calendar, financial anxiety, less exercise and more junk food than usual. But if you are feeling all of that, then probably so is someone near you.

In a time of anxiety or stress, how dark is dark?  How much light can you bring to a dark situation?  Remember, it doesn't take much to make a difference.  And the light you bring to someone else will brighten your situation, too.

We're all different.  You might have the personality of a bright light ~ outgoing, friendly, exuberant.  But even if you are shy and cautious around strangers or groups of people, that might be just the gentle candlelight that someone needs.

Be the source of light in a situation, and though you might not even notice the darkness, someone around you will notice the difference.

~ "Live as children of light" ~
Ephesians 5:8

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where's your trust? Blue Cross or The Cross?

"Do not let me fall into human hands"
2 Samuel 24:14

There's good news and bad news.  As I've shared before, the Apple of my Eye was out of work for quite some time.  Well, that's not entirely true.  He worked, but not for a permanent employer.  He was able to find only free-lance and temp work for several months.  We know that in this economy, he was not alone, and we were very grateful for all the ways God provided.  He provided shelter, food, clothing and reliable cars.  Another thing He provided, though less tangible, was health and safety.

You see, being without a permanent employer meant that we were without medical insurance for several months.  We paid for it on an individual basis for as long as we could, but there came a point when we had to drop it entirely.  From then on, we relied on prayer.  He knew we could never have afforded medical bills, and He chose not to add that challenge to our trials.   A choice for which we were very grateful.

So the good news is, my determined and hard-working husband now has a permanent job.  And this employer offers benefits.  So the bad news is, we now have insurance.

Why is that bad news?  Well, you know how insurance is.  Application forms.  Claim forms.  Explanation of Benefits.  Co-Payments.  Denied claims.  Physician referrals.  Denied physician referrals.  Deductibles.  Plenty of bureaucracy and red tape.   My sweetie came home with forms and booklets, and I realized with some dread that now we need to get back into the world of insurance.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm happy to have the insurance, in case something huge and unexpected happens, but I really enjoyed not having to worry about it.

Because I didn't.  Worry, that is.  I trusted that God would protect us during the window of time where we had to be without insurance.  And I had such peace.  Believe me when I say I do not have peace when it comes to trusting an insurance company.   I found it ironic when I realized I was almost disappointed to have insurance again, and I thought of this verse in Samuel.

This is a very interesting passage in Scripture.  David had chosen, of his own volition, to order a census of his kingdom, the only purpose being, it seems, so that he could gloat over his power.  In verse 10, he was horrified with what he had done, and asked God for forgiveness:  "I have sinned greatly in what I have done.  Lord, I beg You, take away the guilt of Your servant."

God replied through the prophet Gad, "I am giving you three options.  Choose one of them for Me to carry out against you."  Isn't that interesting?  I cannot think of another time in Scripture that a servant of God was given a choice of penalty.

The choices were:  three years of famine in the land; three days of plague in the land; or three months of David fleeing from his pursuing enemies.  David's reponse was my preference, too ~ "I would rather fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great.  Do not let me fall into human hands."

God is fair, compassionate, loving, and merciful.  That's more than we can say about any person on earth.  And far more than we can say about some people on earth.  There's no getting away from having to deal with, and depend on, our fellow flawed humans.  But aren't we glad ~ are you glad?? ~ that in all the complicated, uncertain areas of our life, we can trust Him!

~ "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, 
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" ~
Psalm 20:7

Monday, November 21, 2011

The One-Two Prayer

"David inquired of the Lord"
2 Samuel 2:1

I met some friends recently, at my local ubiquitous coffee shop.  When I was leaving, I had to back out of my parking space, so I looked carefully left and right, and didn't see anyone, and I started to move.  But then I realized there was a woman coming towards me.  She was on the other side of the aisle, and had to walk next to my car to get to the shops.  It was either that, or walk through the bushes...  So I stopped to let her walk by me, cuz I figured she didn't want to walk right next to a moving car.  Then once she was past me, I started to back up again, but then stopped short as I realized I'd better check left and right again.  Just because there was no one there a few minutes ago didn't mean someone wasn't there now.  I remember how much I used to worry when my kids were little, and we walked in parking lots.  I couldn't let them get even a little ahead of me, because I know that someone looking out the back window in an SUV can't see small children if they are below the level of the rear window.  And I remember when I learned to drive, I was taught that before you pull out of a driveway, or into an intersection ~ anywhere there might be cars ~ you should look left, then right, then left again.

The idea is, that things change.  Sometimes quickly.  Spiritually speaking, that means we need to read His Word, pray, and read again.  I'm reminded of today's verse ~ a passage in 2 Samuel.  I first read it years ago, and I just thought there was such a lesson in it.

In chapter one of 2 Samuel, David finds out about King Saul's death in battle.  This had to be bittersweet to David; Saul had become his nemesis, and had tried on many occasions to kill David.  But Saul had also been his king, and as such, David mourned him.  He also mourned the death of Jonathan, Saul's son.  In contrast to David's relationship with Saul, was his relationship with Jonathan.  They had been best friends ~ so much so that Jonathan had helped to protect David from Saul, Jonathan's own father.   And so chapter one is about David's reaction to the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.

And in chapter two, it's time to move on.  So he does what we should all do, at the beginning of every day, at the beginning of every new adventure, at every fork in the road.  He inquired of the Lord.  "Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?"  And the Lord responded, "Go up."  And normally we'd expect to see a servant of God move out in immediate obedience.  But David checks again.  He goes one prayer further and asks God, "Where shall I go?" And the Lord answers, "To Hebron."  And now David moves out.

I think that so often I'm so ready to move, so impulsive, that I move too quickly.  Sometimes it's without praying, but how often is it the case that I move without praying enough?  I don't think there's any such thing as praying too much; not when we're instructed to pray without ceasing.  But as bad as it is to make a move without consulting God at all, it's not much better to move, before we've heard all He has to say.

~ "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God" ~
James 1:5

Sunday, November 20, 2011

You've Got Mail

"The people read it and were glad 
   for its encouraging message"
Acts 15:31

There’s something wrong with our answering machine.  The red light is blinking like we’ve got a message, but there’s no message.   It’s driving me crazy.  I keep trying, just in case.  I push the button to receive the messages, but there’s nothing there to receive.  And yet the light keeps blinking.   So then I just give up and walk away, but the next time I walk by it and see the light blinking, it starts driving me crazy again.  I think it’s something about closure.  

An answering machine is a handy device, though, isn’t it?  Makes life a little more efficient.  Do you remember the “olden” days, when you would call someone, and the phone would just ring and ring and ring.  You’d wait ten rings, then hang up, and try again later.  Now, we can play “phone tag” and the other person will know they are “it”.  We’ve done our part, now the ball is in their court.  (Did I just use a “tag” analogy and a “tennis” analogy in the span of two sentences?  English is a strange language…)

Or you can leave the whole message, and be done with the matter entirely.  “Sorry, we can’t make it to the party.   But we’ll see you Sunday at church.”  No call backs necessary, and I can get back to cleaning stuff off of my kitchen counter.  Efficient! 

And that made me start thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if God did that?   If He had a little red light, on my nightstand, or on my Bible that He could light up when He had a message for me?   You know how it is when you’ve been praying about something, looking for an answer, trying to make a decision, or to know if you should go left or right.  Sometimes it takes a lot of praying to arrive at an answer.   It would be so helpful if you could wake up in the morning, see that little red light blinking, and know that today, He would have the answer for you.

But immediately after that, I started thinking, “Well, really, He does.”  I mean, He doesn’t have a little red light, but He has a message.  Every morning.  Actually, several times a day.   The problem is ~ well, there are two problems. 

The first problem is, that the message He has for us in His Word, is not necessarily on the topic that's uppermost in our minds.   I might be praying for strength, and turn to a passage to read, and find that it's a passage on His sovereignty.  Not what I was looking for.  And yet ~ exactly what I was looking for.  Because if I'm feeling weak, that's when He's the strongest in me.  His strength is made perfect in weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)  So by all means, look to His Word for the answers to your questions; the solutions to your problems.  But don't be surprised if those messages don't look like you thought they would.  

The second problem is, that we don't even bother listening to the message He has for us.  I will tell you that I honestly believe that reading His Word is the single most important thing I can do.  For my day, for  my family, for my life, for my growth... and yet there are many, many days I don't "bother".  Too tired, too busy, too forgetful.  And I'm sure there's times when I think that I really have nothing to gain from it.  Or rather, that I'll get more out of crossing things off my to-do list.  I see the Bible lying on my table, but I don't see a red light blinking, so I get on with my day.  God could have a message for me on the subject of courage, or obedience, or faith, or love, or suffering, or peace, or joy.... you get the idea.  

Even if my Bible did come with a blinking red light, it would never go off.  No matter how often I read something, the red light would tell me there was something else I could read.  And I would simply become inured to the light.  Which leaves me where I am.  The power is mine ~ to see the Bible, to open it, to read it, to study it, to remember it.  His communication with me never ceases.  But it is quiet and unobtrusive.  No blinking lights, so ringing bells.  Just a still, small voice, waiting for me to listen.

~ "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, 
I will come in to him and dine with him, 
and he with Me" ~
Revelation 3:20

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Learning in groups of one ~ or more

"Jesus said to her, 
'The water I give is a fountain of water 
springing up to eternal life' "
John 4:14

I had a terrible thought recently.  Did you ever think something, and then a moment later, you're aghast at yourself?  "Where did that come from?? How could I think that??"  I know better than what I thought, and it's not even something I believe.

A friend of mine is a teacher for the weekly Bible Study I'm in, that includes a Spanish language group.   This is the first year that a Spanish group is offered, so the group is still small.  Most weeks, it consists of just three women.  Several days ago, the bilingual woman who leads that group was sick, and my friend was unsure of what to do.  My friend is not bilingual, and although there is a substitute, she was not able to make it on short notice.   I was talking to my friend about what the options were:  let them sit in with an English group, and do the best they can; or let them go through the study by themselves, without a leader.

And that's when I thought it.  The thought.  The thought I had no business thinking.  I thought, "This group seems like a lot of trouble to teach just three women."

And then immediately, I thought of Jesus.  I thought of this passage in John, where Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well, and changed her life.  He talked to her about the living water, and eternal life.  He taught her.  And she was in a class by herself.

I've always loved this passage because it reminds me that Jesus didn't need a big audience.  Most of the time, His class consisted of twelve men ~ only eleven of whom were really listening, apparently... I taught children in Bible Study for five years, sometimes to very small classes, and I never minded it a bit.  I never felt it was too much trouble, or a waste of my time.  Never once.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  I loved the challenge of reaching children, and the reward of their response to learning the Bible.  And I believe that a group of one or two is just as deserving of energetic, devoted teaching, as a conference of 5000 is.

So where did that thought come from?  I don't know.  It's so far from what I believe, I kinda don't think it originated with me.  And it sure as heck didn't come from God, so that only leaves one option.  And maybe God allowed that thought to enter my head, to engender exactly the response it did.  A little shame, and a renewed belief in the value of teaching God's word ~ to one, or to many.   I'm thrilled that these women have a chance to study the Bible together in their language, and I think the fact that there's just a few of them probably makes for some great discussions ~ sort of like the great discussion that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well.

We are limiting God if we think He can't do big things in a big way.  But we're also limiting Him if we think He can't do big things in a small way.  We need to be ready for either one.

~ "He shall teach in the way He chooses" ~
Psalm 25:12

Friday, November 18, 2011

A new chapter

"holding the banner of family"
Numbers 2:2

Man, it's a beautiful day.  Feels like Autumn.  Sunny, but hazy.  A refreshing and cool day ~ not cold, but sweater comfortable.  And the sun shining through the haze seems to accent the trees whose leaves are turning.  There seem to be more this year.  More red, gold and orange than I remember from last year.  And since the trees probably haven't changed all that much since last year, I'm guessing it's just that I'm noticing them more.  Praise God for showing me more!  :)

So it's a beautiful day, and fairly ordinary.  I taught my kids, and did some prep work for upcoming lessons.  I did a little laundry and put away some of the ever-appearing clutter on the various surfaces of my home.  What is it with countertops?  Clutter just gravitates to them.  So any day I consider "ordinary" has to include cleaning stuff off the counter.  

But regardless of all this, today doesn't feel ordinary.  It feels a little melancholy to me.  Because while it wasn't apparent by looking at my schedule today, my life is going to look a little different from now on.   My husband's parents are moving today.  Hubby and I have been married for 21 years now, and for all of those, we have been blessed to live by both sets of parents.  Now my in-laws are moving out of state.  I'm very excited for this new chapter in their life, but we will miss them dearly.   While I did my "ordinary" things today, my brother-in-law, and professional movers were packing up the sofa where we sit to open Christmas presents, the dining room table where we enjoy so many Thanksgivings, and the coffee table where the kids' Easter baskets wait for them every Easter Sunday.  

I was praying for them a lot today.  For a smooth schedule, that they wouldn't be too exhausted tonight, and that nothing would get broken etc.  But I was also thinking ~ not for the first time ~ how glad I am that my kids have been able to grow up with their grandparents close by.   I never even knew either of my grandfathers.  But when my Amazing Boy hit his very first home run ~ on his birthday ~ all four of his grandparents where there, cheering him on.  When my Awesome Girl had a volleyball tournament, she had four grandparents on the sidelines, cheering proudly.  

Having my wonderful in-laws a little farther away doesn't mean "out of sight, out of mind".  We live in a world of phone calls, email, texting and even skyping.  And we'll have a new state to explore as we make plans to visit them.  So my thoughts today aren't so much about "good-bye" to my in-laws, as they are about "thank you" to God.  He knows the impact that grandparents can have in a child's life, especially when those grandparents love Him, and pass that love and wisdom on.   And He blesses my kids by giving them that influence.  

For good or bad, we are who we are, because of the people He puts in our lives.   So as a new chapter begins, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I'm prompted to thank Him for His many blessings to my children ~ blessings of love, wisdom, forgiveness and knowledge ~ all of which is to say:  their grandparents. 

~ "I have no greater joy than to hear 
    that my children are walking in the truth" ~
3 John 1:4

Thursday, November 17, 2011

To Whom it does concern

"His ears are attentive to their prayers"
1 Peter 3:12

Have you ever been so frustrated with a company ~ their service or their product ~ that you complain?  I mean, not just whine to your friends, but actually sit down and let the company know what you think?  Mostly, I think we'd prefer to just whine to our friends.  It's so much easier.  And somehow, more satisfying.  But it's not going to accomplish anything.  It's not going to bring about change.

I'm currently dissatisfied with the service I've been getting from a corporate bookstore.  There's not just one, but two things I wish they would do differently.  But I'd have to look up the address, and the name of the CEO, or VP of Customer Service or whatever.  And then I'd have to sit down and give my brain over to the task of crafting the words to let him know how I feel.

Soo much work.   And too many things fighting for attention in my daily life.

I also am very unhappy with the quality of a watch that I got a few years ago for Christmas.  It was a gift from the Apple of my Eye.  It's a fairly pricey store, and I would have been happy with something less expensive, but it was Christmas, so he splurged.   And I love it.  It's the style I wanted, it's lovely for when I'm dressed up, and best of all, the band is reversible.  Just a little pull, and twist, and it goes from black to brown.  Isn't that a neat detail?  But within two months, a piece fell off.  I took it back to the store, and they said they'd have it fixed.  If it had happened within one month, they would have just replaced it, but since it was two months, I had to give it to them.  Oh fine.  And as long as I was having a piece repaired, I asked them to tighten it on the top, because when I did the nifty little pull and twist thing to change it from black to brown, it felt too loose.  And then it took eight weeks for them to fix it.  Eight weeks!  Did they have to send it out?  Like, to Mars??  And, when I got it back, they had fixed that piece, but they had not tightened it like I had asked.  She offered to send it back, for another eight weeks, but I said no thanks, I'd just live with it.

And I've been living with it just fine for a couple of years.  I still think it's lovely.  But would you believe, even though the watch is only two years old, another piece has fallen off?  It's disappointing to know that my sweet Hubby spent a little extra to get me a nice watch, and the quality does not match the prices they are charging.  So I'd like to write the company and tell them how displeased I am with the craftsmanship of their products.

But I haven't.  Again, it seems like a lot of work, and worse, I'm not even sure it will matter.  Would the letter even get to anyone that matters?  And more important:  would the recipient even care?  I'm just one person, and they already have my money, although it's fair to say they'll probably not get any more of my money.   What incentive do they have to pay attention to what I think?  That's probably the reason I haven't taken the time to write to them.

And all of that is combining to make me very, very grateful that God listens.  I am thankful that He has made a way for us to communicate with Him, and thankful that He cares.  He delights to hear from us, and as James said, the prayers of a righteous man (or woman) are effective.  Our thoughts and desires, even our complaints and frustrations, matter to Him.   Whether we get our way or not, there is such joy in being heard.   Oh, how I love being loved by Him!

~ "the four living creatures 
and the twenty-four elders 
fell down before the Lamb.  
Each one had a harp, and they were holding 
golden bowls full of incense, 
which are the prayers of God's people." ~
Revelation 5:8

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Knowing the Word

"Have you not even read this?"
Luke 6:3

Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees, as they accused His disciples of breaking the law on the Sabbath Day.  They were all traveling along, and the Disciples grew hungry, so they plucked a few heads of grain and ate them, “rubbing them in their hands.”  Since eating certainly can’t have been considered breaking the Sabbath, it must have been either the plucking of the heads of grain, or the rubbing of them in their hands, to render them edible.

So the Pharisees think they have a valid reason to complain, and they pounce.   Now, as I picture this, I’m wondering what the Pharisees were doing there.  They were hardly eager to hear the teachings of Jesus, and I doubt the two groups just happened to bump into each other in the field because they were all hungry.  No, I think it’s safe to assume that the Pharisees were following Jesus and His disciples, hoping to catch them doing or saying something for which they could finally say those words they so longed to say, “Aha!  Gotcha!”

But even that didn’t go as well as they hoped, because unfortunately for them, Jesus just would not sin.  They had to settle for catching His disciples doing something questionable.  Can’t you just imagine them speaking to each other in hushed whispers?

“Hey, look!  Look at His followers!”
“What?  I don’t see anything.  They are just walking through a field.”
“Yeah, but look!  They are chewing!”
“So what?  That’s no crime.  The last time I scolded somebody about chewing, it was my little brother, and my mother sent me to bed without any fig pie for being self-righteous.”
“No, no, not the chewing!  What are they chewing?  They didn’t have any food earlier, did they?”
“No, you’re right – look!  They are plucking as they walk and  ~ *gasp!* ~ they are rubbing the grain in their hands!!”

And with this “horrifying” realization, the Pharisees moved in for the kill.  They couldn’t accuse Jesus, so they went for the next best thing, and questioned the disciples.  But to their surprise, it was Jesus who answered them.  Perhaps He knew His disciples would be flustered, or perhaps He didn’t want Peter to fly into a rage.  Or perhaps the disciples’ mouths were full…

At any rate, Jesus responded by reminding the Pharisees of something they knew well – the Scriptures.  He spoke of a time when the revered King David had done something far worse when he was hungry:  went into the temple to get some of the sacred bread to feed himself and his hungry men.  God knew David’s heart, and that what made him a good leader was how much He loved His men.  No leader can expect loyalty or bravery from hungry, demoralized men.

And I love Jesus’ last line in this exchange:  “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”  That could have been His only reply to the Pharisees, but it wasn’t.  He was making a further point:  that reading the Scriptures isn’t enough if you’re not going to learn from them.  The story of David and his men had been divinely included in the Scriptures for a reason, but the Pharisees missed the lesson.  And Jesus points that out with the question that cuts them to the quick:  “Have you not even read this?”  Now what?  Do they admit that they do not remember this passage?  Or do they acknowledge that while they knew the story well, they missed the point?  Which is worse?  Which would you answer? 

Scripture should be not just read, but remembered and applied.  The accounts we read in the Bible are not just history stories, they are lessons for us.   What better reason to read and know what He says to us in His Word?

~ "The Word of God is living and powerful, 
and sharper than any two-edged sword, 
piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, 
and of joints and marrow, 
and is a discerner 
of the thoughts and intents of the heart." ~
Hebrews 4:12

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If you learn nothing else...

"the knowledge of our Lord and Savior"
2 Peter 3:18

I've been doing a word-study lately.   Sometimes I get to thinking about a word, or a phrase, and I start to wonder about it.  How is it used in Scripture?  How often?  Is it only used in one of the testaments, or both?  Who says it?   I love doing word-studies, although they can take awhile.  You have to have a concordance ~ either in book form, or online ~ and go on a treasure hunt.

So the word-study I was doing was actually several different phrases.  And they are as close as I can come to answering my wonderment: why does God do what He does?  So I looked up tons of verses that all included words like "such and such happened..." or "God did thus and so..." and also have the words, "so that..."  And what I found repeatedly was a phrase such as, "so that you will know" or "that they would know".

So, it appears that knowledge is very important to God.  Whoulda thunk?  Kidding.  Scripture makes it obvious how God feels about knowledge.  Take, for instance, Proverbs 1:7 ~ "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."  Or Psalm 119:66 ~ "Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I trust Your commands."  There are over 150 verses about knowledge.  Here are a couple of gems from the Book of Proverbs:  "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." (2:6) and "For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." (2:10)   Looks like we could do an interesting word-study on the word "knowledge," too!

But not today.  Today's focus is "so that".  And here's what we know so far:  God wants us to know something.  And time after time, in verse after verse, what He wants us to know is:  Him.  Notice these verses:

Exodus 6:7 ~ "that you may know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians"

Joel 2:27 ~ "then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the Lord your God, and there is no other"

Isaiah 37:20 ~ "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone"

John 8:32 ~ "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"

Ezekiel 20:20 ~ "that you may know that I am the Lord your God"

Over and over and over again.  Judgement, so that we will know.  Miracles, so that we will know.  A covenant with His people, so that we would know.   Trials, so that we would know.  Deliverance, so that we would know.  

That we would know His sovereignty.... that He is loving and merciful and just and powerful... but most of all, so that we would know:  He is God.

~ "I am the Lord and there is no other;
apart from Me there is no God. 
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged Me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other." ~
Isaiah 45:5-6

Monday, November 14, 2011

It has to be you

"use whatever gift you have"
1 Peter 4:10

My "Word of the Day" the other day, was a word that got me thinking.  Generally, if it's a word that's new to me, I just give it a glance and move on.  Sometimes I think about whether or not I can work it into my vocabulary, but I think by this point, if it's not already in my vocabulary, it's probably not going to settle there.  Maybe, but probably not....

So really, the words that are more interesting to me are the ones that I already know, but that have a definition I wasn't aware of, or have an interesting origin.  In this case, it was the definition.  The word was "discriminate".  I thought I knew what this word meant.  To my way of thinking, it's a pretty negative word, too.  When I was in college, my major was US History, and my emphasis was the Civil War and Civil Rights, so I came across the word "discrimination" a lot, and it was never good.

I know the word "discriminate" sometimes comes up in regards to gourmet food, such as:  "he has a discriminating palate."  But I don't think that usage is as common, so the word hangs on to its negative connotation.

But would you believe that negative definition is not the primary one?  It's not even the secondary one.  The primary definition is so beautiful ~ "to see the special features of".  Isn't that wonderful?  It means to notice what's special about someone!  That's such a great thing for us to do, to notice what's special about the people around us.  And that made me think of Jesus.  Who else but God knows us so well as to notice all our special features?  Who else but He appreciates the details that define each one of us?  He knows our gifts and our flaws, our strengths and our weaknesses.  Heck, the very hairs of your head are numbered!

So what makes you, you?  What does He know ~ and love ~ about you, that no one else knows?  And how can you use it for His glory?  And I'm not just talking about the fact that you're good at singing, or you're a great artist, or a gifted athlete.  I'm talking about your compassion, your thoughtfulness, your peacemaking.... your joy, your understanding, your gift for listening... your generosity, your perseverance, your cleverness, your creativity.

Our Lord is discriminating.  He sees you differently ~ better ~ than anyone else does.  And He likes what He sees.

~ "present your body, 
a living sacrifice, 
holy, acceptable to God, 
which is your reasonable service" ~
Romans 12:1

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I think I'm in need of serious re-wiring

"the heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked"
Jeremiah 17:9

We had a nice slow day today... rain and relaxation.  One of my favorite combinations, since snow is not gonna happen around here.

So I watched a little TV this morning ~ one of those home improvement shows.  Man, there's a plethora of these, isn't there?  In this one, the couple was having their basement remodeled, in order to accommodate a renter.  So the construction guys knocked down a wall, or ripped up the floor, whatever they were doing, when they discovered the wiring was done wrong.  Illegally done.  At first they thought it was just in one place, but the more they looked, the more discovered that was wrong.  It seems that the last person to make a change in the wiring made improvements only where the wires met the outlets.  So if you removed the outlet, you'd see it done correctly, but only for a few inches.  Deeper into the walls, and through the basement, it was all wrong.   Dangerously wrong.

Of course, this poor couple had no choice but to give the okay for the demo/reno guys (demolition/renovation.  Apparently I'm watching more of these shows than I thought...) to change out all the wiring.  Now, as I said, I don't watch a ton of these shows ~ did I say that?  I thought I did.  Well anyway, I don't.  But it seems like every time I watch one, they get started with the renovation only to discover that there are hidden things wrong.  Mold.  Wiring.  Insulation.  Something that no one knew was wrong, because it wasn't visible.  In some cases these invisible problems had the potential to cause serious problems (like bad wiring causing a fire) and in other cases, they might have already been causing problems (like mold causing allergies, or skimpy insulation increasing heating costs).  And if it weren't for their efforts to improve their homes, these people might never have known there were internal problems.

In a spiritual sense, I find this rather discouraging.  Because the hard-to-deny analogy is that as soon as I try and improve myself in His eyes, I'm gonna look a little deeper, and find something else wrong.  Most likely, something worse.  For instance, let's say I wish it were less important to me to be right when I have a different opinion than the Apple of my Eye.  I pray, and read Scripture wanting to be more successfully submissive ('cause even when the actions are good, the heart is not always.  You know how it is....)  But when I open that door, I find pride at the root of the problem.  That's a harder problem to fix.

Or let's say I'm praying about patience.  The issue at the root of that seemingly shallow problem, is a desire to want my will, in my timing.  The problem is not patience, it's that I don't really mean it when I say "Thy will be done."

The deeper the problem, the harder it is to demolish and renovate.   But doing it right is worth the time.  I'll be a better, stronger, more loving person when I let Him have His way.

~ "Whoever conceals their sins
 does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them
 finds mercy" ~
Proverbs 28:13

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Two Lessons from Fridtjof Nansen

I read an interesting article today, and it gave me an insight I wanted to share with you.  But by the time I finished the article, I had another insight, so today you get your choice of insights!

"God's will ~ 
His good, pleasing, and perfect will"
Romans 12:2

In 1893 a Norwegian explorer named Fridtjof Nansen decided he would try something that had never been tried before.  He had a hunch that a ship could ride the current, over the Arctic, from Vardo, Norway, to the North Pole.   But the ship could not float on that current, per se.  Nansen would build a boat, and sail it until the ice prevented them from sailing anymore.  Then they would ride along, with and on, and in, the ice.  They would simply, go with the floe.  {Okay, I just can't tell you how much I enjoyed that line.  Please, take a moment here to laugh your head off, or to look up "floe", whichever you need.}

The boat was called the Fram ~ Norwegian for "forward" ~ and it was built strong enough to withstand the three years it would spend seized by the Arctic ice.   It was reinforced with strong beams, and insulated with, among other things, reindeer hair.   They had provisions enough for five years, music to listen to, and a windmill to power electric lights for those long, dark nights (and days).  They had books to read, and each other for company.

The men of the Fram 
So the first lesson I saw, was about going with the flow.  God has a plan for your life.  You have free will of course, but if you have given your life to Him, then your goal is His goal.   You can fight it, of course, but a ship trying to sail against the ice is going to be crushed by it.  Or you can let Him guide.  He has given you what those explorers had: The Word, the Bread of Life, worship, light, and fellowship.  Don't try so hard to get where you want to go.  Get where He wants you to go.

"Let perseverance finish its work"
James 1:4

Unfortunately, the article went on to say, Nansen realized that his plan wasn't going to work.  The Fram would not reach the North Pole.  So Nansen and a companion, Hjalmar Johansen, left the ship, to try to make it to the North Pole on foot.  They weren't able to, but they went farther north than anyone had ever come.  But they turned around when they realized they weren't going to make it to the Pole.  They decided it would be foolish to risk their lives trying, and chose instead, life.  And then they spent months skiing and skating and kayaking and sliding and sledding their way south.  It was brutal.  Cold.  Starving.  But they were determined to make it through alive.  And they did.  For perspective, in 2007 two Norwegian men re-created the journey.  They had advantages, like navigation and communication equipment, that had not been available to Nansen.  But even so, it was brutal.  Said one of the men, about Nansen and Johansen, "I'm surprised they didn't just shoot themselves.  The only reason they survived, was that they refused to give up."
Fridtjof Nansen ~ Doesn't look like the kind to give up, does he?
Are you that kind of person?  Do you refuse to give up?  I'm not sure there's anything more inspiring than someone who refuses to give up.   Like David, even when he was staring at a 9+ foot tall Goliath.  Like Paul, punished in myriad ways as he persisted in sharing the gospel.  Like Jesus, in the Garden, wondering if there was any other way.

God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.  But if that's going to help us, we can't give up.  Jesus' healing of the lame man would have been useless if the man had refused to get up and walk.   Nansen and Johansen's journey became harder than they could have imagined.  Certainly, harder than your journey or my journey.  When they ran into a difficulty, they took that turn, and gave it all they had.  And then the next day, they did it again.  This is what Jesus asks of us.  When difficult is followed by difficult, do not give up.

~ "The joy of the Lord is your strength" ~
Nehemiah 8:10