Thursday, September 27, 2012

Murmuring Cats

Exciting, challenging, convicting. A new Bible study for me to work through, in which looking at changing my attitude is key. What?! Me, needing an attitude change? Okay, maybe just a little bit.

The first chapter deals with complaining and takes us into the wilderness with that group of grumps, those constant crabs, the stars of strife, in the Old Testament. Yeah, you know who. Moses’ herd of murmuring cats. None of us are that bad. Or are we? Today in our discussion group we talked about how quickly we forget the great and mighty things God has done in our lives and like the grumblers, we let our desires run wild because somehow we don’t think he’s going to come through for us again. (Psalm 106:13-14)

It’s been good to be reminded recently of a time a dozen or so years ago when God used nature’s beauties and wonders to teach me how to remember his faithfulness.

It was a spring Saturday morning. My mom, my daughter, Kim, and I braved uncertain weather conditions to go ‘garage saling.’ As we left our car to explore one more treasure site, our eyes were drawn upward to an intense blue, frosted with clouds—the kind you want to put in a waffle cone for licking. The air almost tingled; the hillsides, sunshine glorious.

“Mom,” Kim exclaimed suddenly. “Look behind us!”

Turning, we marveled at the difference. Black clouds towered and rain sheeted down in the distance. Moments before we’d traveled sunny roads over which the storm now raged.

I’ve weathered a number of storms since then. And you can bet I’m not talking meteorologically. Whirlwinds of fear, dismay and worry assailed my mind. There will undoubtedly be future storms. Instead of letting that storm devastate my mind, I want to speak out this truth to my God, “You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens; you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds. You make the clouds your chariot; you ride upon the wings of the wind. The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.” (Psalm 104:2b-4, NLT).

Wow! Is there any room for complaining in that? In case you’re wondering, that’s what praise looks like. For me, it’s not about saying, “Oh Praise Jesus, we’re late on the rent again.” Or “Hallelujah, it’s rice and beans for dinner for the foreseeable future.” If that’s the situation we’re facing, that’s the situation we’re facing and it ain’t exactly gonna be roses. My task is to remember that God is the Power described above. And hang on for the ride without being a murmuring cat.

Got any storms raging? What does praising God look like for you?

                                     wait for it........................

                                              ....aaaaah, sun.

 COMING SOON! I am so excited! Guest blogger next week!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Am I a Pain?

One of my favorite authors, Jane Kirkpatrick, writes about “focus” in her Kinship and Courage Series novels. She uses it to describe more than clarity, looking at the Latin root meaning “hearth”, that which warms a person to the center of their being.

I like thinking about that in terms of God, how He is my focus. Not just helping me see more clearly, but to feel more clearly. His warmth comforts and energizes. Food prepared at the hearth fire nourishes. He feeds me.

Even with that comfort, pain is a constant. Somewhere I saw a quote indicating that the pain in the past lessens when we face forward. I’m not sure that’s true. Why is it, anyway, that we want the people around us to be pain free? Maybe pain is a constant, never-ending reality in this life. And our desire for the absence of pain in others is to avoid admitting our powerlessness in eradicating it.

According to Genesis there’s no maybe about it. God told Adam he’d have pain all his life. Maybe we’re not supposed to seek the absence of pain. Maybe we’re supposed to continue on in the pain. Maybe the triumph is in persevering in spite of the pain. Physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, whatever and wherever the pain, or the cause. Accept the pain instead of trying to escape it.

But I’m not to let pain define me. I am not this painful shoulder that wakes me in the night. Or the fingers that allow me to drop things. Or the wounded heart that pangs with memories. They belong to me, but I don’t belong to them. They might restrict my movements but I don’t have to let them restrict my attitudes or let them be an excuse to hurt the people around me.

In the midst of my greatest difficulties, my belief in God develops. That’s where my faith really begins—in my pain and anxiety and angst. I found this verse one day when I was wondering if my pains were from a lack of faith. “I believed in you, so I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” (Psalm 116:10, NLT) It is because I believe in Him that I can tell Him about my struggles.

Pain will have an end, to be sure. God’s going to handle that. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelations 21:3-5, NLT) Well, hurray for that! Makes me want to put on my red hat and do the happy dance!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Can’t Drive Out the Way We Drove in

Ezekiel is a fascinating book in the Old Testament. Hey, you might call it weird. I call it fascinating. There’s room for all of us here.

I love that it is full of imagery and instructions for building the Jewish temple and lots of the religious activities. The other day as I was reading I was reminded of the car license plate holder my daughter used to have. Okay, so you’re right. That is weird.

But not totally weird—hear me out. See, there was this band she liked called They Might Be Giants and she liked one of their songs so much that a friend had the license plate holder custom made for her with the title of that song on it. “Can’t Drive Out the Way We Drove in”.

There were cars in the Old Testament, you’re asking? No, of course not. Although there was a Honda in the New Testament. You know, where it says the disciples were all together in one Accord. 

(crickets chirping loudly)

But seriously, I believe everything in the Bible means something. God gave those instructions for a reason. Most of His reasons may be beyond my comprehension in this world but I am seeing a little picture here that reminded me of that song title. The people are told in chapter 46 verse nine that when they come to the temple to sacrifice, they weren’t to go out the same way they came in. Literally in by the north door and exit through the south and vice versa. I wonder, did those people consider why God gave those instructions? I imagine some of them did. I’m talking more than just crowd control measures, although that's certainly necessary at times. I mean, here they were bringing sacrifices in worship. That had to be pretty significant. After all, sacrifice indicates giving up something valuable. So going out a different door than the one they came in seems more meaningful to me than just some weird thing.

What does it mean for me thousands of years later? Could this also be a foreshadowing of when God gave up something more valuable than anything we could ever give?

Is it possible that when we meet God at that ultimate sacrifice—His son, Jesus, giving up his life on the cross, who counted everything loss for our gain, we receive something even more valuable? I think so. In the victory Jesus Christ had when He exited the tomb, we experience the change from living death to living life. We leave that encounter a different way than we came in.

Having pretty much avoided the church scene for a couple of years and now starting to get back into it, I don’t want to go in the door of a building and come back out, same old same old. It’s my desire that my life exhibit that encounter even better than having it written on my license plate holder. Not in my physical appearance or what I wear or how many church programs I get involved in. But in how I view myself and others and God. Hope that’s not too weird.

Have you had that encounter? In what ways are you different as a result?

                                          An open gate invitation.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Right Place, Right Time

 As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.” Psalm 138:3 (New Living Translation)

Why did I decide to soar into the blogosphere at this particular time in history? I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I’ve been taking a look at the way things fell into place at the right time.

Blogging’s been around for a couple of decades now. I remember a couple friends starting blogs maybe eight or nine years ago and I’d visit their sites but they weren’t terribly active on them. I dabbled a bit when I had a myspace account around 2007 but didn’t carry on with it either. Hadn’t really figured out what use the blog was to me.

My sister began a blog when she and her husband went to Macedonia on a short term mission trip as a means of updating the prayer team back home. She enjoyed doing it so much that she kept it up after she got home, figuring after all, that every day lives can be on mission. Reading her posts gave me a much better idea of what blogging was about. Started reading other active blogs too. My sister suggested that I might enjoy putting up a blog. But I really didn’t know what I would do with it.

Last fall I seriously thought about it. Journaled and prayed about it. Considered what to name it. But there was a major drawback. I didn’t have my own computer. I’d had one for a number of years but sadly it succumbed to a major global hacking assault last summer. I was fortunate to have backed up my photos and writing on a flash drive prior to the crash.

And so I began praying for another computer of my own.

Now, I still had access to a computer, my husband’s laptop. But because he uses it for work I never felt at ease to spend time writing or creating anything on it. He usually leaves it home while he’s gone during the day but due to the nature of his work, he often pops in at home at unscheduled times and needs to use it. If I’m disrupted in the middle of deep creative time my thought train jumps the track and it takes a long time to get it back on the rails. So I was reluctant to even start anything like a blog.

After a couple of years of staying away from church and women’s ministry due to a painful situation in that area, from January to May of this year I attended a women’s Bible study with a friend. In our small group I began to share a bit about my writing and received affirmation and encouragement.

A friend of my daughter’s offered me a used laptop he had sitting unused in storage. An exciting answer to prayer! Not! (Well, not that prayer anyway.) It was really, really old, a dinosaur, like twenty years old. As soon as we put the anti-virus program on so I could go on-line, it ran so slow it was like it was going backwards. Disappointing? Yes, but the amazing thing was that I was able to practice patient acceptance in my circumstance. A gift and a lifeline that held secure through the months.

During the summer I joined a book club discussion group with some of the ladies from the Bible study, another lifeline.

At the end of July another friend of my daughter’s brought me a laptop that needed a good home. This is a computer with an operating system that was actually made in this century. It’s better than my husband’s laptop! He’s just a wee bit jealous.

Thank you, Lord, for a computer of my own!

Two days after that prayer was answered, I received a request to share my testimony with the book club discussion group at the next meeting. I used this laptop of my own to write out that testimony.

Meanwhile several ‘tutoring’ sessions on how to set up my blog occurred with my personal blogging guru, aka my dear sister, via Skype. Exciting new territory for me!

August 10th I shared my testimony with the book club. More affirmation and encouragement on my writing. “You need to put this out there for people to read,” someone said. I think she meant in a book but let’s just take it one step at a time.

I made my testimony part of my ‘first’ official blog post August 13th.

Wait a minute, you’re saying. What about that verse you posted at the beginning? It says God answered you as soon as you prayed. But you had to wait a whole year for a computer of your own. Ah, yes. I waited for the computer. But God immediately gave me the strength to do so patiently and with acceptance. You know that Bible study I attended from January to May? It was Beth Moore’s study on the book of James. I think this wait of mine illustrates the kind of thing James was talking about in the very first chapter. Verses 2-4 tell us, “you should be happy when you have all kinds of tests. You know these prove your faith. It helps you not to give up. Learn well how to wait so you will be strong and complete and in need of nothing.” (New Live Version)

And there you have it. A computer of my own at the right place, right time. Plus strength in the waiting.

What are you waiting for with patient acceptance?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Who’s the Boss?

It’s a conversation we have often, my hubby and I.

No, no! Not about whether he’s the boss or I am! No need to answer that question. Ha, ha, ha!

No, my man Eddie was voicing his musings again the other morning as to why he feels that working for someone else in a job has more validity than working for himself.

There must be something about oatmeal that gives me insight. Well, at least this time, because that’s what I was eating just then when the thought came to me. And Eddie recognized my ‘aha’ look and responded with his ‘go ahead, lay it on me’ look. Hey, after thirty-six years of marriage, we’ve got the communication by facial expression thing down pretty well.

I said, “Honey, it’s a life-long pursuit of yours, looking for affirmation from someone in authority, the affirmation you didn’t receive from the ones that were ‘supposed’ to provide it. There are jobs where the boss does give that and there are bosses that don’t. Parents that give it and parents that don’t.”

I suggested looking at Colossians chapter three. Verses 22,23,24 in The Message say, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.” (Italics placed by me)

I said, “It’s about looking to Him for our ‘attaboys’, our affirmation, even if you’re the boss.”

Later that day I came across the following in my daily email Bible reading and found a great big ‘attaboy’ from God. (And yes, I put it in an email to my husband. He wasn’t close enough for facial expression communication by that time.)

Psalm 147
10 He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
    or in human might.
11 No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
    those who put their hope in his unfailing love. (New Living Translation)

God created each one of us with different physical traits, stamina, talents, abilities—each wonderful in their own way. And according to Genesis, God said His creation was good. Yet, those physical attributes count as nothing to Him compared to our hearts’ and minds’ decision to put our hope in Him. We all have the same ability to choose to do that. We don’t all have the strong muscles but we do all have what it takes for God to delight in us. From the very core of our being, reverencing, acknowledging Him, placing our hope in His love—the love that never fails.

Whatever my job, or yours, whether we work for ourselves or others, our heavenly Father takes a shine to us doing so with an attitude of looking to Him as The Boss.

Hubby’s facial expression says, ‘got it!’

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Note Scribbled to Myself

Do you write notes in church? It’s really okay if you do!

But if you’re looking at MY notes scribbles and thinking, “What a mess,” well, stop looking—they’re not for your benefit! These scribbles will serve to remind me days later of the ‘take-aways’, the concepts meant for my heart, my mind, my soul. Maybe at a moment when I most need them. The neat thing is that the Holy Spirit works through a sermon in an individual way. So what I take-away in my notes might be different than what you take-away. But I don’t want to be selfish with my take-aways. So guess what?! I’m going to share them with you today!

This past Sunday I had the privilege of sitting with my husband at Saddleback Church and listening to Nick Vujicic speak encouraging words that my heart needed. I can’t give it to you verbatim but I can share with you insights that made an impression on me. (The message however is archived on the church website)

Nick, by the way, commented that he loves to see people taking notes, not because it makes him feel good, but because he wants people to be able to look up later any quotes from the Bible that he uses and spend time thinking about them for their own benefit.

My ears and fingers caught a few concepts to muse on later (and to make your reading easier I’ve cleaned up the scribbles a bit. You’re welcome!):
The enemy attacks by influencing our thoughts and attitudes to try to keep us from God’s truth. Here’s Truth.
·        Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (New Living Translation)
·        Jeremiah 29:11-14a   “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. (NLT)

We don’t know what God can do until we give Him the broken pieces. When we give Him those broken pieces, we’re saying we have faith in Him.
·        Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (NLT)

God thinks about me all the time.
·        Psalm 139:16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (NLT)

God thinks beautiful thoughts about me all the time.
·        Psalm 139:17-18 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (NLT)

Being disabled by fear and guilt is worse than no arms and no legs. The miracle of knowing God is better than having arms and legs. Moment of most impact for me: Nick commenting, “There’ve been times I’ve thought, ‘If only I had arms and legs, then I’d be happy.’ But I’m looking out at all of you, most of you have arms and legs. Are you happy?”
·        Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT)

When God doesn’t change the circumstances, He will use the circumstances.
·        Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (NLT)

What do we REALLY want?
To know the truth. The truth is God is sufficient.
·        Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (NLT)

I’m thanking God for the blessing of Nick Vujicic, a man with a huge heart and a big voice. The world is being blessed by his ministry Life Without Limbs.

 And just for fun, here's the hat I wore on Sunday:
                                                       It's a great hat to muse in.