Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slow down

"The race is not to the swift"
Ecclesiastes 9:11

You know what gives me the teeniest, tiniest amount of shameful glee?  When another driver makes a big show of passing me ~ or tailgating and then passing me ~ and then a few minutes later we're both stopped at the same stoplight.   Or seeing someone speeding and recklessly changing lanes, but five minutes later they're no farther ahead of the rest of the traffic.

I mean, don't get me wrong.  It really doesn't bother me if someone passes me.  I figure, if they're in that much of a hurry, and not being careful, I'd rather let them go by.  I just find it ironic that it often doesn't seem to gain them much.

Life is not a race.  Now, I say that knowing full well that there are a few verses in the Bible that refer to running a race.  For instance, 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race..." and Acts 20:24 "... nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy..." but in the original language, the word used is dromos, which means "course".  It simply means completing the path God has laid out before us.  It's not about speed.

Yes, our goal should be to get to where God wants each of us, but it doesn't mean we need to rush past others on our way.  Yes, we should be looking ahead to who we want to be, but not at the expense of the people in our lives ~ and that includes complete strangers in the cars around us. 

I hope you have a good day today.  And I hope you enjoy every minute ~ and everybody ~ in it.

~ "You will show me the path of life;
     in Your presence is fullness of joy" ~
Psalm 16:11

Friday, March 30, 2012

The good news is: He's the crutch, too!

"Jacob's hip was out of joint 
   as he wrestled with Him"
Genesis 32:25

I've got a friend who is wounded.  Limping, albeit not physically.  From a struggle.  She's done with the trial she was going through, but it's left her feeling weak. 

And I think that's a good thing. 

My kids hate it when I remind them of the expression "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" but it's true.  Every difficult situation we go through is something God has allowed for us, and sometimes the reason is because He wants us a little weaker. 

Maybe it's because we were getting a little too confident in ourselves, and He wants us to rely on Him.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9 God says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Maybe it's because He wants to enable us to have compassion for others.  2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God "comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort others, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."  {That verse is a bit of a tongue twister, but the meaning is so great!}

Maybe it's because He simply wants us to remember.  Sometimes, when we're done with a trial, we're so glad to get back to our "regular" lives that we forget the lesson He wanted to teach us.  2 Timothy 3:14 says "you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them."

We don't want trials.  And when we get them, we want to blame them on something or someone.  But sometimes they are from Him. 

And we don't want to limp.  We want to feel we are "perfect".  But our definition is different than His.  And if limping is how He wants us, then that's perfect!

~ "Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him" ~
Colossians 1:10

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Maybe that explains all the Tebowing...

"we shall all be changed"
1 Corinthians 15:51

Well, Tebow's on the move again; have you heard?

Tim Tebow, if you don't know, is an American football player.  That's what he is if you do know, too...  He played for the University of Florida until he was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010.  But just a couple weeks ago, he was traded from the Broncos to the New York Jets, so he's in the news again.

Tebow has always been controversial ~ criticized for his lack of experience, and for his style of play, as well as for being so open with his strong Christian faith.  But he's also been lauded for his impressive work-ethic, and for his ability to get the best out of his teammates ~ not to mention for being so open with his strong Christian faith...

Photo from Tim Tebow's website, courtesy of the Denver Post

But whenever I think of Tim Tebow, I think of a quote about him.  It was spoken by Urban Meyer, who was Tebow's coach at the University of Florida.  He said that Tim Tebow made him a better person. 

I'm not sure there's a better compliment in the world.  We all want to be talented, or gifted, or skilled in some way.   Or maybe we want to be knowledgeable or compassionate... to help people or heal them or teach them in some way.  I personally want to be a few of those things.

But I never really thought in terms of making someone a better person.  That's a very lofty, and admirable goal to have.  But I wonder if it even is Tim Tebow's goal?  Or is it just his goal to be the very best Tim Tebow he can be, making good use of what God has given him, and letting God handle the rest?

Maybe, without our realizing it, that's the effect we have on others, when we're living His will for our lives.  Maybe that's exactly what God's plan is, even if He never explained it to us.  Maybe if we're following His instructions:  loving Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength; and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, then we'll be a part of how He changes people.  Maybe obedience is not just for my benefit, but so that I can be a blessing to others.

There are people in my life who make me a better person.  What a joy to know I might be doing that for others.

~ "Therefore let us pursue 
the things which make for peace 
and the things by which one may edify another" ~
Romans 14:19

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sing a new song

"singing to the Lord"
2 Chronicles 30:21

Have you had a cold this cold season?  I had one.  About three weeks ago.  Upper respiratory thing.  Throat pain and coughing; you know how it goes, I'm sure.

I was thankful it wasn't worse, symptom-wise, and that it only lasted a week, and that no one else in my family caught it.

The bad news is, I'm still coughing.  Not a lot, but enough to be annoying.  Too much talking, laughing or singing, and I'm off on a coughing fit.  I know it's just part of being sick, but I think it's hard because I feel fine otherwise.  Then when I start coughing, I think Really?  Is this thing still not gone?

So last Sunday, during church, I was wishing I could sing.  I was singing a little, but then I had to go back to just mouthing the words so I wouldn't start coughing.  But mouthing the words just isn't the same.  I definitely think it's still worship.  I'm very aware of the words, and they can become a very sincere prayer, which is good. 

But I was missing being a part of the music.  There's just something about voices joined together that is so beautiful.  Basses and tenors and altos and sopranos, with harmony and instruments.  I was in choirs for a lot of my life, but now, joining in worship at church is as close as I get to a choir, and I was missing being a part of that sound.

Scripture talks a lot about singing.  It's both a privilege and an obligation.  Or a privilege and an expectation.  It is our joy to sing to Him and about Him ~ but it's also almost an automatic expression of our love for Him, and our awe of who He is.  It's a gift that I'm appreciating more than ever! 

~ "The flowers appear on the earth;
      the time of singing has come!" ~
Song of Solomon 2:12

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Extra or Star?

"Martha welcomed Him into her house"
Luke 10:38

A friend at church got engaged the other day.  At church.  Well, after church.  She's a wonderfully smart, sweet girl that I met accidentally.  I was sitting in a chair one day, next to where she'd left a book she was reading for college.  It had a very unusual title (that I can't even remember now) and when she came back to pick it up, I joked about it.  She joked back, and we got to talking.

But to be honest, I'm not sure it's quite accurate to call her a friend.  Yes, we're friends, in that we're not enemies.  And the dictionary says "mutual affection, exclusive of family relations" which is true of us.  I say hi to her every week, and most of the time we give each other a hug hello.  Every few weeks I ask her how school is going ~ she finishes up college in a couple months, and she's so excited about that! 

But in a way, I hesitate a little to call her my friend.  We don't have anything in common (that I know of) other than attending the same church, and we haven't done that for very long.  We share our faith, and that's a lot, but we've never gone out to lunch or for coffee.  I don't know when her birthday is, and I don't even know how to pronounce her last name.  And I didn't know she had a boyfriend, much less one who was getting ready to propose to her. 

He proposed out front of the church.  It's a fairly small church, so most of us were gathered outside, and through word-of-mouth we all knew what was going on by the time she came out of the church.  I couldn't hear anything he was saying, or even her response, but I could imagine, having seen dozens of proposals on TV and in movies.  Not to mention having participated in one myself...  And of course I could tell by their actions what her response was. 

It was very sweet to watch, and I was glad to have been there.  But the truth is, it wasn't important to the happy couple whether I was there or not.  Which I understand completely.  But I got to thinking about how often God might feel like just a witness in my life, as opposed to a participant.  He's always nearby, of course.  He knows what I'm saying and thinking and feeling.  But that's because of who He is, not because I'm that constantly communicative with Him. 

Because while He's God ~ all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful ~ He's also polite.  If you want to look at it that way.  He has given us free will, so while He can work anything out any way He wants to, it's not like we are the puppets and He is the hand.  He's not waiting for opportunities to butt into our lives, He's waiting for invitations to join us.  He loves us so much, and wants to be a part of our joys and sorrows, our decisions and frustrations, our planning and our surprises.  And I love Him so much ~ why don't I invite Him more often?

Knowing Him and being known by Him is the joy of having a relationship with Him.   Is He welcome?

~ "when they begin to stand outside 
and knock at the door, 
saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' 
and He will answer and say to them, 
     'I do not know you...' " ~
Luke 13:25

Monday, March 26, 2012

I always feel like Somebody's watching me

"the God Who Sees"
Genesis 16:13

In the Bible study I attend, there's a children's program, which means my Amazing Boy goes with me, and learns while I'm learning.  Although, being in Junior High, he'd probably protest the phrase "Children's Program"...

And a few times a year, the different grades share something with the women of the study.  They come in after we're done in our small groups, and before we come together for our lecture.  They might sing a song for us, or share a project they've been working on.  And twice a year ~ at Christmas and at the end of the study year in May, they all get together and sing a few songs for us.  The moms all love it.

The kids, not so much...

The little ones just want their mommies, so as soon as they see them in the audience, it's hard to even get them to stay on stage and do whatever it is they're supposed to do.   The older kids cooperate, but most of them aren't too keen on being up in front of the moms.  Most people don't like that much attention, right?

Well, when my Amazing Boy was little, I would try to give him courage about those times, by telling him that all the other moms were looking at their own children, so I was the only one who was looking at him.

That worked for a few years.

Then he got to an age where it occurred to him that not all of those women in the audience had children in the program.  But I told him that anyone who didn't have a child in the program was looking at the youngest ones, the two-year-olds, because they are the cutest, as a rule, and the most likely to do something silly and fun to watch, so really I was the only one who was looking at him.

That worked for a few years.

Then, last year, my mother joined the Bible study, and he said to me, "Mom, I don't care what you say, you're not going to be the only one looking at me; Grandma's going to be looking at me, too."

Well, he had me on that....

He's right, and he was all along, of course.  He could never be positive that I would be the only one looking at him.   There is pressure of being watched, whether on stage or crossing the street, and very few people enjoy that feeling.  But there are a lot of people in the world.  So it figures some of them are gonna be looking at one another...

The important thing to remember though, is that the only One we should care about, is God.  As hard as it might be sometimes, we need only concern ourselves with an audience of One.  He's watching with love, and compassion, and understanding, and He is the only One qualified to judge.  He knows our hearts, He forgives our mistakes, and He loves our efforts.  Like me with my Amazing Boy, only better!  :)

~ "The ways of man 
are before the eyes of the Lord, 
and He ponders all his paths" ~
Proverbs 5:21

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Job's focal point

"In my flesh I shall see God"
Job 19:26

I love Job's certainty of this glory, even in the midst of his trials.  And I love that this truth is so near the surface of his emotions.  Job's suffering was so great, that it has set the standard for pain endured by humans, yet he never lost sight of his reward.

Is this what my focus would be in the face of suffering beyond my comprehension?  I can tell you it is far from my thoughts in the middle of my trials ~ trials so small they can hardly be called that.

And what is this promise that I accept so blithely and take for granted?  That I shall see the face of God.  Say that out loud:  "I shall see the face of God."   To accept His gift of salvation is to know that we will be like Him, and we will see Him as He is.

Man, I love His promises...

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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Get it? Got it? Good!

I know I've appreciated the beauty of Romans 8:28 before on this humble blog, but my Sweet, Gentle, Warm, Loving, Amazing Boy asked me about it yesterday.  His baseball team had just lost their game, in very painful fashion, and as we were driving away from the field, he said, "Momma?  Does Romans 8:28 mean that everything that happens is good for someone, or everything is good for everyone?"

So because I love him, and because I love you and because I love Romans 8:28, let's celebrate this promise!

"We know"

 We can be certain.  It's in His Word; it is His promise; 
He keeps His promises.  


"that all things"

A friend of mine says that when you see the word "all" in Scripture, remember that in the original language, it means "all".  All means all, and that's all all means.  
 So, to be clear:  all things.  Every thing.  Each event.  Day or night, on any day ending in y.  


"work together"

This could only be accomplished by God.  Every event in life fits together like a puzzle.  Accomplishing His purposes in His perfect time.  Yes, we all have free will, but He has a plan, and no matter how we live our lives, He can work His will for His plan.  And He's working one event in my life and yours and his and hers, all at the same time.  He can do that.  He's God.


"for good"

That word in the original language is "agathos" and it means "of good constitution or nature; useful or producing good effects; pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy; excellent or distinguished; upright or honorable".  Here's the point:  not bad.  Good.  :)


"to those who love God"

Here's the "catch".  It's not just about you.  It's about Him.  It's a wonderful reciprocation:  love Him, and be blessed.  If He is your God, then His goals will be your goals.  You will want what He wants.  And what He wants, is to bless you with abundant life.  What He wants, is for all things in your life to work together for your good.  


And so it will be.

There you go, Sweetie.  Love you,
Momma

Friday, March 23, 2012

The party that shouldn't be thrown

"but instead, joy and gladness"
Isaiah 22:13

Would you believe that with a theme verse of joy and gladness, this post is not going to be about celebrating?  Nope.  This one is going to take a serious tone.  It's a "take-a-good-hard-look-at-myself" kind of post. 

Chapter 22 of Isaiah is a warning.  Course, a lot of Isaiah is... God's people have been called on the carpet by Him.  He is showing them their sin, and He wants repentance.

What He gets, is partying.  "Joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep for a feast; eating meat and drinking wine:  ' Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! ' "

Now, I'm a big fan of joy and gladness, though not so much of slaying oxen or killing sheep.  Or drinking wine for that matter.... I prefer an icy-cold root beer.   Feasting and celebrating is certainly more fun than looking inward and facing the sin He is showing me.

There's a time and place for joy and gladness.  Plenty of it.  But that's all the more reason for remorse and confession when He asks for it.

~ "A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance" ~
Ecclesiastes 3:4

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A safe place

"everyone who was in distress... 
in debt... discontented....
gathered to him"
1 Samuel 22:1

Thinking about David again today.  I've been doing that a lot lately, cuz I'm studying him.  There is just so much to learn from him; both from his mistakes, and from his victories. 

And I was very intrigued by this verse.  David was on the run from King Saul, who wanted to kill him.  So David was hiding in a cave.  His father and brothers heard where he was, and his whole family came to be where he was. 

And so did 400 others.  Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him.  I don't know if it was because they blamed Saul for their troubles, and so they wanted to be on the opposite "team" from Saul.  What I do know is that there were a few thousand men whose job it was to hunt David down and kill him.  But still those 400 people wanted to be where he was.  Why would they feel safe with a man who was the target of the wrath of the very dangerous king?  It defies logic. 

I think the simple answer is:  they see in David what God sees.  They see his heart for God, and the gentle caring of a shepherd for his sheep.   They see the courage it took to fight Goliath, and the wisdom it took to successfully evade Saul's army.

Christians should be like this.  We should give off a feeling of love and comfort and encouragement to others, that draws them to us.  Our faith in Him should be evident, and attractive.  What a joy He has for us in being a place of warmth and welcome for those who are struggling!

~ "Stay with me; do not fear... 
   with me you shall be safe" ~
1 Samuel 22:23

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

There's a lot to choose from...

"Our Father, Who art in heaven, 
hallowed be Thy name..."
Matthew 6:9

"And His name will be called 
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace"
Isaiah 9:6b

"We love Him because He first loved us"
1 John 4:19

"But He answered and said to them, 
'I tell you that if these should keep silent, 
the stones would immediately cry out' "
Luke 19:40

"He has shown thee, O man, what is good 
and what the Lord requires of thee:  
but to do justly, and to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with your God"
Micah 6:8

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, 
and we beheld His glory"
John 1:14

"Those who wait on the Lord 
shall renew their strength.  
They shall mount up with wings as eagles;
 they shall run and not be weary, 
they shall walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:31


Do you know what these verses have in common?  Some come from the Old Testament, some from the New; they might be inspirational, or instructional, or hopeful, or heartwarming...  But the not-so-obvious common denominator is that these verses all belong to me.  And this is only a few of them.

Some of them create a picture in my mind that thrills me, or warms me.  Some of them tell me that He is the God of the Universe, omniscient, and all-powerful.  Others tell me that He is gentle and caring, my Father.    

Some of them I was instructed to learn, others I learned as a song, and they never left me.  Some of them remind me of where I was in my life when they became mine.  Some have been mine for so long, I can’t remember when they weren’t.

The Bible Study that I attend encourages us to memorizes verses of Scripture, but the first couple times there was a memory verse, I did not memorize it.  Doing the homework was challenging enough.  And no one follows every instruction they are given. Some directions are only for other people, right?  But after about the third one I ignored, God put on my heart that I had joined this Study for a reason, and that was to learn His Word.  And what better way to learn it, than to memorize it?  So the next verse we had, I decided to memorize.  And God rewarded me.  Because without warning, that was the very first time that our leader had brought in chocolates to give to anyone who had memorized the verse.  Maybe if she'd brought in chocolates sooner, I would have started memorizing sooner!  

Believing in God is not the same thing as knowing Him.  His Word must be in us.  We all have verses that we love.  Verses that thrill us, or comfort us.  But I am talking about more than memorizing verses, and more than just remembering them.  I am talking about claiming them.   

At first I didn’t realize I was doing this ~ claiming them.  I was reading a Christian magazine, and the verse the editor had chosen to make the subject of his column was Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.  And you shall be witnesses to me, in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the end of the earth.” and I thought, “Hey, cool!  That’s one of mine!” And the following summer, my daughter was in Vacation Bible School, and one of the memory verses she was given was Acts 1:8.  And I told her excitedly, “That’s one of mine!” And then she was given Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And because it was hers, I claimed it, too.  When my husband and I were were dating, one of his favorites was Matthew 19:26, “With God, all things are possible”  And because it was his, I claimed it too.

And I don’t mean to say that I have memorized all these verses.  I don’t think that’s necessary.  God is not impressed with rote recitation. He simply wants us to make them ours.  And just because I memorize a verse, that doesn’t mean I have claimed it.  Perhaps the time is not right for it to find a place in my heart.  When I am ready, it will come to me.

My dictionary defines the word “keep” in several different ways, one of which is “to manage or have charge of; to adhere to or to fulfill.” This is what we mean when we say, God keeps His Word.  He fulfills it.  But another definition is “to retain possession of; to have as a supply”.  This is how we should keep His Word.  Luke 2:18-19 says, “And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I  might not sin against You.”  And Deuteronomy 30:14 says, “But the Word is very near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.”  John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you.”  It’s a glorious promise. 

We must read His Word, and read it again.  And Learn it, and Love it and Claim it.  Because it is mine, and because it is yours, and because it is His.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To Boldly Go

"take nothing for the journey"
Mark 6:8

I was reading an article in a magazine last week about the Northwest Territories of Canada ~ specifically the National Parks.  There are about 40 National and Territorial Parks in the Northwest Territories alone.  Don't you just love the whole idea of National Parks?  What a great way for a country to show thankfulness to God for the beauty of this planet. 

But the visitor information for one of the National Parks included this advisory:  "There are no visitor facilities, established hiking trails or campgrounds in the park.  Visitors are required to be completely self-sufficient."

Now for some, that would be foreboding.  That would be reason not to go.  They need some comforts, some support.  But for others, that would be an exciting challenge.  Some people thrive on being self-reliant:  they love the need for effective planning beforehand, and the opportunity to think on the fly. 

To be honest, I think that is what God calls each of us to.  No matter which of those is our personality, He wants us to grow.  We often want to stay in situations where we're comfortable, or where we know we have several back-up plans.  He wants us in situations where He's the only back-up plan.   He wants us to put our faith in Him, completely. 

There may not be all the comforts we want in any given situation, but He is everything we need for any journey He's calling us to.

~ "He called the twelve to Himself, 
and began to send them out two by two...
He commanded them 
to take nothing for the journey
 except a staff ~ no bag, no bread, 
nothing in their money belts" ~
Mark 6:7-8

Monday, March 19, 2012

For You

"Look at the birds of the air...
See how the lilies of the field grow"
Matthew 6:26, 28

My Amazing Boy said something so sweet to me the other day.  It wasn't unusual for him; he says sweet things to me often.  But for some reason, I appreciated it more than I usually do.  And for some reason, it occurred to me that it might be God talking...

He was outside practicing baseball.  I'm not sure what he does when he's out there.  He spends some time every day hitting something, or throwing something, or catching something... I was inside doing whatever it is I do every day:  cleaning something, folding something, typing something, reading something...  And he poked his head in the back door and said, "Momma?  There's a pretty birdie out here I thought you might want to see."


We've looked at lots of birds together.  When we do school, his chair faces the window that looks out on the apple tree.  And he knows it's a perfectly acceptable interruption to point out to me that there's a bird in the apple tree.  We've seen finches, martins, sparrows, hummingbirds and woodpeckers.  For that matter, we've also stopped school for lizards, flocks of crows, and one fast-moving ferret.

But when my son called me to come see a bird, I thought to myself that God must be pleased with him.  {With my boy, not the bird.  Although God is probably pleased with the bird, too...}

I was pleased, that I'm successfully raising a boy who appreciates birds and clouds and sunsets.  Nature is so important to me, and I'm glad that my kids appreciate it, too {also evidenced by all the pictures my Awesome Girl takes!}


Even as I type this, I'm sitting in my car, under a tree, and I am hearing a variety of tweets and chirps and trills... and the insistent banging of two woodpeckers.  It's a symphony, really:  melody, harmony and percussion.

I would really like it if God brought my attention to everything He was doing for me, the way my son did.   If He said, "Daughter, if you got up right now, you'd get to see this sunrise I painted."  Or, "I know you're enjoying that TV show, but I just made another flower bloom in your front yard."


But maybe He does, and I'm just not listening...


~ "You alone are the Lord;
You have made heaven...
the earth and everything on it,
the seas and all that is in them " ~
Nehemiah 9:6

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Facing Forward

"confidently looking forward"
Hebrews 11:10

We went to a volleyball tournament today.  I just loving watching my Awesome Girl go!  And it's so interesting to watch how each position is played differently:  where they position themselves, how they move in the midst of a rally.  It's a little like it's choreographed.  They hit, and then move out of the way; or they hit the ball not over the net, but in such a way as to set it up for one of their teammates.  It's fun to watch. 

One of the things that intrigues me is my girl's positioning when she's playing Middle Blocker.  That's front row, center.  When her team is serving, she stands right at the net, with her hands in the "ready" position, facing the opposing team.  Now, it makes sense to me that she'd be facing the opposing team, except for the fact that, since her team is serving, the ball is coming from behind her.   It seems to make more sense to turn her head, and watch the ball being served, then face the opposing team once the ball is on their side.  And yes, she has been hit in the back of the head by errant serves from her teammates.  But when she gets in position, she faces front.  That's her job.  And she's ready when the ball is returned from the opposing team.

I love the focus and confidence she shows in this position.  And I love the spiritual illustration this is to me.  Sort of along the lines of Deuteronomy 5:32 ~ "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" ~ the idea of keeping your eyes on what God has called you to, without wondering about or looking to what someone else is doing. 

So which way are you facing?  Back, front, or to the side?   The job He has for you is right in front of you.

~ "one thing I do, 
forgetting those things which are behind, 
and reaching forward 
to those things which are ahead, 
I press toward the goal 
for the prize of the upward call of God 
in Jesus Christ" ~
Philippians 3:13-14

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A prayer from His heart

"love your enemies... 
  bless... do good... pray..."
Matthew 5:44

How many of you out there are familiar with that concept?  Loving your enemies?  Raise your hands. 

Yeah, that's what I thought.  So then you know it's a tricky one.  Matthew 5:46 says "If you love those who love you, what reward have you?"  But it's so much easier, right?  Loving those who love us?  I much prefer that.  I rock at that. 

Well recently, I put this more-difficult command into action.  There's a person in my life I've had a little trouble getting along with lately.  We had a bit of a disagreement a few weeks ago.  Although really, she didn't know it... She did something that frustrated me greatly, so in that sense we were disagreeing.  But I didn't say anything to her, so she didn't know we were disagreeing.  It was just me being disagreeable.  And frustrated.   And downright mad.  But I talked to a few friends, and the Apple of my Eye, and came to a place of acceptance about the whole thing.  People sometimes just are who they are.  And this person did what she did.  Nothing I could do about it.  So when we saw each other, I just pretended like nothing had ever been wrong, but I kept my distance a little.  Just a smile and a brief "how are you" before moving on. 

But I'd also been hearing about something difficult things going on in her life.  Financial problems, and some minor but persistent health problems with a family member.  So the last time I saw her, I asked her how things were going.  And then I said I'd like to pray for her.  So we stood there for a few minutes, and I prayed. 

Now, when I offered to pray, my intention was to pray for those people in her life that struggling, but when I actually started praying, I prayed for her.  I prayed that He would give her strength as she encouraged and blessed her struggling family members.  I prayed that she would have joy, and peace in all God was doing in her life.  And I thanked God for her friendship. 

I was going to be obedient to Him, by praying with her.  But I prayed for her.   And that was all Him.   Because the commandment to love those who are unlovable can only be done through Him. 

~ "If you forgive men their trespasses, 
  your heavenly Father will also forgive you" ~
Matthew 6:14

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another one!

"Here I am, for you called me"
1 Samuel 3:8


Yup ~ another lesson from my dog.  Our sweet, sincere, brown/blue-eyed dog-of-very-little-brain gave me another insight today, into the mind of God.  Well, not really.  She's not that spiritual.  But she did get me thinking about how God, as my Father,  might have to deal with me sometimes. 

The Apple of my Eye was home for lunch.  We just love that he works close enough to home to have lunch with us most days.  The dog loves it, too.  She's just crazy about him....  His lunch was made (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich ~ lovingly made by my Awesome Girl) and waiting for him at the table.  He sat down and took a couple of bites, and our eager little pooch sat on the floor by his feet, desperately hoping he would drop a crumb or a crust.  After a few minutes, my husband realized he needed to check the calendar to confirm some dates for a trip we are planning.   The kids and I were still in the kitchen making our lunches, so Hubby knew if he walked away from his sandwich, with no one there to guard it, it was in danger. 

His solution, as he walked away from the table, was to call the dog to him.  She eagerly followed her master ~ devoted, furry creature that she is.  She stood next to him as he got the information he needed, and she looked up at him expectantly the whole time.  I love that sincerity: "he called me; he must want me for something."  When he was done, he praised her for her attentiveness, and the two of them walked back to the table.   He sat down to finish his sandwich, and she sat down to resume hoping.


This got me to thinking, I wonder if God has even done that to me:  introduced a situation in my life that requires my attention, simply to distract me.  After all, I'm a sometimes overly involved mom and wife and friend.  I wonder if sometimes He gives me a challenge, or an opportunity, or a project, in order to keep me occupied while someone I love is dealing with their own issue.  As if He were saying, "I want you over here, because I don't want you over there."

Just another reminder that He has plans and purposes.  He knows I want to be in His will; I want to be part of His plan for me, and for those around me.  So whatever His reason for having me here, or there, or anywhere, I want to go where He calls.

~ "He said to him, 'Follow Me.' 
   So he arose and followed Him" ~
Matthew 9:9

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Maybe if I change my contact lenses...

"what is good in His sight"
1 Chronicles 19:13

I went to the eye doctor today, and I'm thinking now about vision.  I'm thinking about what it means to be spiritually far-sighted and near-sighted.  Because I think we need to be both...

Being near-sighted means being able to see clearly, what is up close.  I think spiritually, this means my day-to-day life.  My sweet husband, my amazing kids... my church, Bible study, the people I interact with at baseball and volleyball and around my neighborhood.  I want to know what God wants from me in this part of my life; at this time in my life.  I want to impact people in a positive way, to bless them and love them.  I want my goals to be what He wants from me.  But most of all, I want to value what He values, to have His vision, to see as He sees.   

On the other hand, being far-sighted means being able to see clearly when you look in the distance.  Spiritually, we can think of this as being in the future.  And this is where we are at a huge disadvantage.  God can see what we cannot.  He can see lots that we can't...  So why do I think that I can trust my judgment when it comes to the timing of the events in my life?  Why do I think I know what's good for me or my family, or what's bad?  I want to be spiritually far-sighted.  I want to trust Him completely when it comes to the future, both for my life, and for those around me.  I want to think eternally.

It changes what matters, when we change our focus.  And I want to see as He sees.

~ "Jesus had compassion 
and touched their eyes, 
and immediately their eyes received sight, 
and they followed Him" ~
Matthew 20:34

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Memory Lane

"The memory of the righteous is blessed"
Proverbs 10:7

I read an interesting article last week.  I forget what it was about, though.  I know it was interesting, and I know I learned from it, but I can't remember....

Oh, I know!  It was about memory!

The article was interesting because it was on the study of extremes:  a man whose memory only lasted a few minutes at a time; and a woman who can remember every detail about every day of her life, since her childhood.

I don't know which of those would be worse.

The first part of the article was about the woman, and I thought, "what a burden!"  I think there would be so much clutter in my head if I remembered what I had for lunch on a specific Tuesday seventeen years ago.

And I think there would be so much pain in remembering things I would rather forget.  Ignorance is bliss, they say, and that bliss can be achieved not just by not knowing things you don't want to know, but also by forgetting things you don't want to know!

I don't know how that woman feels about having a memory like that, but she doesn't know any other way.  I am very thankful that this is part of how God protects my mind from arrows of the enemy in the form of relentless regret for things I've done and things I should have done.  And most of all, I am thankful for the forgetting that God has done:  "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Hebrews 10:17)

The second part of the article was about a man with an extreme case of short term memory loss.  He can remember things from years ago, but not things from a few minutes ago.  He thinks Lyndon Johnson is the President of the United States, and if he happens to pick up a newspaper and read something to the contrary, he's absolutely stunned ~ for a few minutes.  Then he forgets what he has just learned, and his world goes back to "normal".

Now, if forgetting is bliss, then this ought to be the happiest man on earth, right?  Well I don't think so.  Because he's forgetting all the good stuff, too.  Think of your fondest memories:  your wedding day, the birth of your children... I vividly remember the day I met the Apple of my Eye, even though we were both in high school at the time, and it was 20+ years ago.

I also remember kindness towards me.  I remember words of love and encouragement.  I remember times of laughter, and even tears, that are precious memories.  I also can appreciate who I am, because I remember who I used to be.  And that makes me all the more grateful for what He's done for me ~ "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

There are things I wish I could forget, and things I wish I could remember, but I'm also so thankful I haven't forgotten everything I remember, and that I don't remember everything I've forgotten!

~ "I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old" ~
Psalm 77:11

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hard at work...

"built on the foundation"
Ephesians 2:20

A friend of mine stopped by last week with an unusual delivery for me.  Her mother died several months ago, leaving behind several unfinished needlework projects, and my friend thought I might like the challenge of finishing them. 

I've only found a little spare time so far, but it's been very interesting to work on finishing someone else's project.  It's a little difficult to try to "catch" someone else's vision for completion.  Not all of her projects have an obvious goal!  I had to take a couple over to my mom's to see what she should was the next step on them.

There's also a sense of responsibility, somehow.  My friend's mom was a friend of mine, too.  It feels like an honor to be picking up where she left off.  I know, it's not quite like Gutzon Borglum's son having to complete Mount Rushmore after Borglum's death... It's just needlework.  But still...

This thinking of mine put me in mind of this wonderful verse from Ephesians.  In its entirety it reads like this:  "You are, therefore, no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone".  I just love that phrase "the foundation of the apostles and prophets".  I love how it honors so many of the writers and heroes I love in the Bible.   And I love the reminder that what I do for God ~ for His glory and His kingdom ~ builds on the work of those who have gone before me.  There's honor and privilege in being part of that.

What I do to serve God pales in comparison with what David did, or Joshua, or Isaiah, or Jonah.  At least, it does to me.  But for Him, every bit is part of His plan.

~ "The whole building, being fitted together, 
      grows into a holy temple in the Lord" ~

Ephesians 2:21-22

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Substance of Things Hoped For

"the faith of the saints"
Revelation 13:10

Recently I was reading the last chapter of the Book of Romans, and was reminded of one of my favorite phrases of Paul's, "the obedience of faith".  (It's used in chapters 1 and 16.)  I remember the first time I read that phrase, and I absolutely loved the concept of faith being the origin and source of obedience.  So today I thought I'd share what I discovered, when I looked to see what else we should know about faith:  what it gives us ~ what it leads to ~ what it consists of. 

Faith leads to action

"deeds of faithfulness" 
2 Chronicles 32:1

"work of faith" 
1 Thessalonians 1:3

"door of faith"
Acts 14:27

"fight of faith"
1 Timothy 6:12

"race of faith"
Hebrews 12:1


Faith is why we communicate with Him
 
"prayer of faith" 
Psalm 6:1

"hymn of faith" 
Habakkuk 3:17


Faith protects us:

"shield of faith" 
Ephesians 6:16

"breastplate of faith"
1 Thessalonians 5:8


Faith needs to be shared:
 
"declaration of faith"
Psalm 27:1

"profession of faith"
Acts 8:9


Faith edifies us:
 
"full of faith" 
Acts 6:5

"righteousness of faith" 
Romans 4:13

"repentance of faith"
Hebrews 6:1


Faith impacts those around us:

"word of faith"
Romans 10:8

"joy of faith"
Philippians 1:25

"spirit of faith"
2 Corinthians 4:13

"household of faith"
Galatians 6:10


Don't you love that?  If you've got faith, you've got everything you need!

~ "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" ~
Hebrews 11:6

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lessons from my cat

"created for good works"
Ephesians 2:10

I love my cat.

She's chatty and sociable. 



She's soft and cuddly.



She's playful and energetic. 


I love my cat. 

Except at bedtime...

Things used to be fine, but lately ~ the past several months ~ as soon as we turn off the light, she starts meowing.  Yowling.  Meyowling.  It's loud and it's incessant.  I have some success squirting her with a water sprayer, but it's fairly tricky to hit a black cat in a dark room when I'm sleepy. 

It's been frustrating because I don't know what she's trying to say.  She's got food and water; why can't she just settle down and go to sleep??

Well, the other day I happened to stumble on a show about cats on TV.   The host of the show tries to help people understand why their cats are misbehaving, and he was working with a couple whose cats were fighting every night at bedtime.  He told them that part of the problem is that the cats aren't getting enough playtime during the day; they're too energetic at bedtime, and so when one of them growls at the other, they both are all too willing to go at it. 

This was helpful for me to know, as a cat owner whose pet clearly has too much energy.  Playing with her before bedtime will help her to be tired when I'm tired.   The lesson is that she needs to be more active during the day.  She'd like to just sleep all day, but she's got to get that energy out sometime. 

I think there's a lesson in there for us, too.  We are meant to serve, to love, to bless others.   There are those who, once they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, seem to want to rest in that salvation, without any goal or hope to achieve anything for Him.   But if all God wanted to achieve in our lives was eternal life with Him, then He'd take us home the minute we had accepted that gift.  But He has us here on earth to do things.  We have energy, creativity, and gifts to be used for Him, to bless others.   That's how He designed us. 

So rest when you must, but not when you should be doing.

~ "we are His workmanship, 
created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand 
that we should walk in them" ~
Ephesians 2:10

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What are you waiting for?

"We have seen the land 
  and indeed it is very good.  
Would you do nothing?"
Judges 18:9


The spies had gone ahead, 
and brought back a glowing report.  
They spoke to their brethren 
with eagerness and excitement.  
"Let's go!  Would you do nothing?  Do not hesitate!"


We, too, have been told about the land we are to come to.  
A land flowing with milk and honey... 
with streets of gold... 
with no need of light, 
because the glory of God will illuminate it.   
We shall see His face.


Would we do nothing?


Accept His gift of salvation, 
that we might enter this land?

Study His Word, that we might be more like Him,
 and closer to Him here on earth?

Serve others, that they might know Him, 
and go there too?


Would we do nothing?


~ "I wholly followed the Lord my God" ~
Joshua 14:8

Friday, March 9, 2012

A sling and a stone

"your servant has killed"
1 Samuel 17:36

How many people can say that?  How many servants of God can confidently make that statement, especially proudly.  Well, David said it, proudly and confidently. 

He made this statement to King Saul, by way of assuring him that he, David, could defeat Goliath in battle.  He was letting Saul know that in his job as shepherd, it had been necessary for David to kill both a lion, and a bear, to protect the sheep.  He had successfully done so, and at the same time, though he didn't know it, he had been preparing for Goliath.  His experience at killing was important.

When I was a teenager ~ probably about the same age as David at this time ~ my sister and I were home alone when we heard someone upstairs.  Our father was out of town, and our mother was out for the evening, so immediately we assumed it was an intruder.  My sister dialed 911, and urged me to go get a knife from the kitchen so that we could defend ourselves. 

While she spoke in whispered tones to the 911 dispatcher, I ran to where we kept the knives, and stood there trying to decide which was the best knife to use for defense.  The butcher knife is stronger, but my mom also has a large serrated knife that is longer than the butcher knife.  If I were going to defend myself, which knife was best for the job??

This whole thought process probably took about 30 seconds ~ at which point my mother came downstairs and opened the door to the family room.  She had come home early, and gone straight upstairs to change her clothes, and now she was coming downstairs to greet us. 

Well, needless to say, my sister told the 911 dispatcher that everything was fine.  I closed the knife drawer, and we all had a good laugh about it. 

But I thought about this experience the other day, as I thought about David's level of preparedness.  He was confident in his ability to defend himself against Goliath, because he'd had to defend himself ~ and his sheep ~ already in his life.  I had no idea how I was going to go about defending myself against an intruder.  {Although why we didn't just flee the house, and call 911 from a neighbor's house, is beyond me...}

God had prepared David.  He needed him to battle, so He prepared him through battle. 

What is He preparing you for?

~ "So David prevailed over the Philistine
   with a sling and a stone" ~
1 Samuel 17:50

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ready or not...

"in this world you will have tribulation"
John 16:33

I'm thinking today about warnings:

"I need to talk to you..."

"Something has happened..."

"I'm sorry to call you at this hour..."

Sometimes, shortly before big or difficult events in life, we are given a warning.

And in general, I'd tell you that I prefer it that way.  Change can be hard, and more so if it's sprung on me.  I'd rather buckle up and be ready, and then I'm much better at adapting.

That's what I would tell you.

But really, when it comes down to it, warnings are scary.   They tell us there is something coming that we need to dread, and then we feel like we have been given permission to be anxious. 

But I have no permission to be anxious.  I have no business being anxious.   Something bad, negative, scary or uncomfortable is on the way.  Tonight, tomorrow, next week, this summer.... maybe all of the above.  But I am held in His hand every minute of every day.

~ "I am persuaded that neither things present
 nor things to come... 
shall be able to separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" ~
Romans 8:38-39

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Neediness

"I take pleasure in needs... 
for when I am weak, then I am strong"
2 Corinthians 12:10

I needed a friend to provide a ride home for my Amazing Boy today, because I had someplace I had to be.

I needed a car in order for me to drop him off, and to get me where I had to be. 

I needed a hearty lunch, because I wasn't able to have dinner tonight. 

I needed a chair to be able to prep for the study I had to attend. 

I needed materials and a brain to be able to teach my kids.

I needed kids with the ability to learn what I was teaching them. 

I needed my husband to go to his job, so that I could be a stay-at-home mom.

I needed a good breakfast to start my day. 

I needed a warm bed to rise out of first thing in the morning.

I needed a home in which to be a stay-at-home mom.

I needed a working washer and dryer to do my laundry for me.

Truth be told, all I really needed today ~ every day ~ is Him. 

~ "God shall supply all your need 
    according to His riches in glory 
   by Christ Jesus" ~
Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lessons from a chicken enchilada

"we who are strong 
ought to bear with the failings of the weak"
Romans 15:1

I made chicken enchiladas for dinner tonight.  I think.  Sort of.  I've only eaten them a few times in my life, and made them myself even fewer times.  And I wasn't working from a recipe.  Just kinda wingin' it...

I don't mind being brave in the kitchen.  I do a lot of tweaking and substituting.  Many's the time I've "perfected" a recipe.  Which means the creator put something in it I don't like, or didn't put something in it that I think would make it better.  So I "fix" it. 

But every once in awhile, I make a dinner where I'm really not sure what I'm doing.  Tonight was like that.  I just had an idea.  I didn't want to look up a recipe to work from because ~ well for starters because I was too lazy.  But I also knew a recipe would call for something I didn't have so I'd end up tweaking it anyway.  Plus I knew I had a couple ingredients I wanted to make sure I used, to get them out of the fridge (no one's eating those multi-grain tortillas I bought). 

And I had the kitchen to myself.  That's unusual.  Usually my Amazing, Awesome kids, or the Apple of my Eye ~ or all three ~ will help me make dinner, but the boys were at baseball practice, and my girl was working on her homework.  But that was exactly how I wanted it.  The one time I want the kitchen to myself, is when I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing.  I guess I want the freedom to make mistakes, realize it, and fix them, without being embarrassed. 

Anybody else know that feeling?  And maybe not just about cooking? 

I had a great conversation with a friend today.  I was sharing with her on a topic that has been frustrating me lately.  And I was so grateful that I could share what I was thinking and feeling, without worrying about being wrong, or feeling embarrassed or foolish.  It's such a blessing to have friends with whom we feel completely comfortable.  I'm lucky enough to have a few. 

Growing as a Christian means making mistakes sometimes.  It means trying and failing, or sometimes failing by not trying.  But God is faithful to put people around us who can encourage us, correct us, or guide us.  I hope you recognize those people in your life.  And I hope you are that in someone else's life.

~ "Therefore comfort each other 
 and edify one another, 
    just as you also are doing" ~
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Monday, March 5, 2012

Starve a cold...

"Let them give us vegetables to eat"
Daniel 1:12

Last week was an interesting week for me, food-wise. 

And by interesting, I mean kind of boring.

I had a cold all week, with a sore throat and laryngitis.  So for the most part, when it was mealtime, I didn't really feel like eating much.  All I wanted was something to soothe my throat, so I drank a lot of tea, and had a lot of soup and toast.

By the end of the week, though my throat was feeling better, my body in general felt weak and tired.  And I know a lot of that had to do with the war going on against the germs, but I could also tell that I was suffering from a rather poor diet.  I was staying away from dairy, so I wasn't getting a whole lot of protein.  And other than one veggie omelet, I wasn't getting any fruit or veggies, either.  And I was starting to feel the effects of that.  I was really lethargic, but I was also really longing for the foods I was missing.


Our bodies know when we are lacking something.  They send us messages when we are in need of fuel, nutrients, or water.  But we don't always recognize signs.  Or sometimes we recognize the signs, and respond poorly.  Feeling hunger, for instance, and eating a candy bar, is a poor response.

In the same way, my spirit knows when I am lacking something, too. Sometimes, when my schedule has kept me from being in prayer, or in the Word the way I should be, I can feel the difference.  Maybe a lack of peace or direction; maybe a temper or a heart to quick to judge someone else.  And I run the same danger of responding poorly to spiritual signs, as I do with physical signs.  When I feel anxious, for instance, I might choose to watch TV to take my mind off of it, instead of turning to the Bible.  That's the spiritual equivalent of a Snickers bar...

Physical health is achieved by a balanced diet that brings in all the elements our bodies need.  Everything we need for our spiritual health is found in His Word.  We do not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

 ~ "Desire the pure milk of the Word, 
     that you may grow thereby" ~
1 Peter 2:2

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Always

"the Lord, who is worthy to be praised"
Psalm 18:3

He is worthy when I rise, and when I lie down.

He is worthy when I eat, and when I sit at His feet.

He is worthy when I sing, and when I cry.

He is worthy when I play, and when I laugh. 

He is worthy when I celebrate my blessings, and when I am feeling discontented.

He is worthy when I feel I don't have time to meet with Him; when I am feeling pressed to accomplish things; when I am distracted by the desire to sleep in, or see what I'm missing on TV. 

It's me who ebbs and flows; waxes and wanes. He doesn't change.  He is always worthy.

~ "let us continually offer 
   the sacrifice of praise to God" ~
Hebrews 13:15

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Making a difference

"you and the king who reigns over you"
1 Samuel 12:14

The children of Israel wanted a king.

Judges?  Not good enough.

Priests?  Not good enough.

Prophets?  Not good enough.

God?  Not good enough.  

They wanted a king.

Per God's instructions, Samuel tried to warn them... "he will take your sons to be his horsemen and his charioteers, to be his soldiers and his captains, to make his weapons and reap his harvest.  He will take your daughters to be his perfumers, his cooks and his bakers.  He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your groves; your donkeys, your sheep and your servants."

But they insisted.  So God granted them their desire.

And at Saul's coronation, Samuel had another warning for them, and I find it very interesting.  "If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God."   Do you see the connection between their behavior, and the success of their king?  "If you fear the Lord... then both you and your king will continue following the Lord."

It works the same way for us.  We all know we can have an impact in the lives of those He has placed in our care.  But isn't it interesting to know we can have an impact in the lives of those over us, too?  Parents, employers, pastors and leaders...

And ~ not surprisingly ~ Samuel was right.   Just one chapter later, the people were gathered with Saul to battle the Philistines.  They gathered and then they waited, as instructed by Samuel, for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice for them before the battle.   But the waiting was too much for them, and the people got scared.  They did not have faith, and they started to scatter.  And because they did, Saul panicked, and disobeyed Samuel by offering the burnt offering himself, instead of waiting for Samuel. 

Saul paid dearly for this decision.  1 Samuel 13:14 ~ "the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  Now your kingdom shall not continue.... because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."

The decision was Saul's.  The mistake was his.  But the temptation to sin came from the people.  If they had been faithful, and encouraged their king's obedience to God, all would have been well.  They would have strengthened Saul ~ for the battle and for the future.  Their weakness led to his failing, which in turn was not good for them

Are you faithful?  Are you in prayer for the leader of your country?  Are you in prayer for the leaders of other countries?  After all, we're all in this together.   What my president does affects you, too, whether you live in my country or not. 

Be faithful.  Be obedient.  For yourself, and for those it will strengthen.

~ "Do not withhold good 
from those to whom it is due, 
when it is in the power of your hand to do so" ~
Proverbs 3:27

Friday, March 2, 2012

Just keep swimming.... just keep swimming!

"difficult is the way which leads to life"
Matthew 7:14

I love salmon.  Not just eating them, although I do love them that way.  But I love the fish in general.  I love how they look, and the story they tell by their lives.  I love that they're pink (although they prefer "salmon-colored").  I just think it takes so much courage for a fish to be pink, don't you?  I love their names:  Steelhead, Sockeye, Chinook, Coho...  They just sound strong and noble and.... I don't know, natural.

But most of all, I love their story.   I love that their eggs hatch in freshwater, but that the fish spend most of their lives in the ocean, and then they return to the place they were born, to lay their eggs.  I love that they swim upstream to do it.  They battle a lot of dangers to do it, too.  See?  There's a lot to admire about salmon.

There's a lot to emulate, too.  Salmon do it by instinct; you and I have to make a determination.  We have to want it.  Living a life free from sin is like swimming upstream.  Man, I don't know about you, but I feel that almost every day.  TV shows, movie trailers, conversations overheard at the baseball field... there's a lot going on that God doesn't want me involved in, or doesn't want me thinking about.  The world is full of things that will pull my attention away from Him, and from living for Him.  He has given me things to focus on:  my husband and kids, my church, Bible study, friends and family.   Now, there will be things that come up that might take my attention.  Some of those are from Him, for my growth or someone else's benefit. 

But some of them are just distractions that I'm allowing.  I need to ask myself what my goal is, and make sure that none of my short-term goals are taking me away from my long-term goal of being a blessing to those around me, and becoming more like Him.  Rewards await me, but I have to keep swimming!

~ "you have persevered and have patience, 
  and have labored for My name's sake 
 and have not become weary" ~
Revelation 2:3

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stand up and fight

"I know your pride 
  and the insolence of your heart"
1 Samuel 17:28

I'm studying the chapter on David and Goliath in Bible study, and I'm finding myself furious ~ and not at Goliath. 

I know this story too well ~ probably you do, too ~ to still have much rage against Goliath.  He's a bully and a coward.  But I've known this since I was a child, and I know he's going to die for his crime of taunting and challenging the armies of the living God.  So I guess I don't react much anymore when I read of his bullying.

But today I found myself angry at someone I never really thought much about before ~ David's oldest brother, Eliab.  He, along with a couple of David's other brothers, had gone to battle, and had been hearing Goliath's taunting.  But he, along with everyone else in the army, was too scared of Goliath to do anything.

But then one day, on his father's orders, David came to the battlefield.  He was bringing food to his brothers, and he was just supposed to get word of his brothers, and go back and tell his father, but while he was there, he heard Goliath's daily challenge, and he was incensed:  "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"

David had the reaction that every one of those men should have had.  But their fear was the only thing they could think about.   And that is where Eliab's words come from.  His fear.  He hears that David is indignant and brave, and it highlights his own failings.  He is scared and jealous.  And so he attacks David verbally, to put him on the defensive.  First he attacks David's motive for being there in the first place:  "Why did you come down here?"  But David's motive was obedience:  his father had told him to go there. 

Secondly, he accuses David of not caring for his sheep, of abandoning them in the wilderness.  But you know, and I know, and God knew, that David was matchless as a shepherd.   He had made sure his sheep were cared for before he went to the battlefield. 

And thirdly, Eliab judges David.  He comes to a conclusion on something about which he knows nothing:  David's heart.  "I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle."

You know, and I know, that David's motive ~ his heart ~ was pure.  God Himself said that David had a heart after God's own.  It doesn't get any more pure than that.  David wasn't perfect, but His heart belonged to God.  And Eliab had no business questioning that.

Stepping out to serve God annoys people sometimes.  It embarrasses them as it points out the fact that they are standing still.  Maybe it highlights their fear, or their disobedience.  And sometimes it causes them to lash out.  To accuse in you what they seem in themselves.

David's about to do something amazing.  Something no one else had the courage to do.  And he didn't let anyone's criticism talk him out of it.  Let us all have that much determination.

~ "The battle belongs to the Lord" ~
1 Samuel 17:47