Saturday, December 10, 2011

In umbra, igitur, pugnabimus.


Yesterday, my girls and I were sitting in our Latin class when our teacher introduced us to this week's Latin phrase: "In umbra, igitur, pugnabimus."  When I saw the translation, I laughed out loud.  It means "Then we will fight in the shade."  I think the teacher, who is one of my dearest friends, must have understood the question behind my laughter (the question of "why in the world would we learn THAT phrase?"), because she simply looked at me and assured me there was a great story behind it.

In August of 480 BC, the Spartan king Leonidas was holding the pass of Thermopylae with a Greek force of 7000 against a much larger army led by the invading Persian king, Xerxes I.  Herodotus (a Greek historian) recorded that there was a Spartan soldier who was told that the Persian arrows would blot out the sun, but instead of being fearful at such a thought, he simply responded with courage and optimism, "So much the better, we will fight in the shade."

All of a sudden, the phrase seemed like a good one to learn. The story reminded me of a quote I like by Winston Churchill...

But optimism by itself isn't what I'm after.  I need optimism's foundation.  After we got home, Mike read to us out of 2 Kings about the threat of Assyria's king against Hezekiah...talk about bigger armies!  But Hezekiah rightly went straight to the Lord with the news.  Assyria had overpowered the surrounding nations, but Hezekiah prayed like this:

"O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.  Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.  Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands — wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone." ~ 2 Kings 19:15-19

God delivered...God did things they would have never imagined.  The only reason I can be an optimist in a world filled with the brokenness brought about by sin is because I serve a God who loves the world He created for His glory...the Living God who redeems, resurrects, and rules...He steps in!  He does unimaginable things for His glory.

Because our God is who He is & He reigns, no matter what circumstance we face we know we are in it by His decree with a good purpose behind it...let us be those who look for the opportunities to trust God and to make much of Him. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Power Thought #10

I Live in the Present and Enjoy Each Moment

[Unlabeled quotes are taken from the book Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer.]

The aim of this chapter seems to be to get us to live in the now and to do so with joy.  John 10:10, John 15:11, John 16:24, and John 17:13 are listed out to emphasize that Christ desires us to be filled with His joy.  The author wrote about a lesson learned by Brother Lawrence.  "He found kitchen work to be very distasteful, but learned that if he did it for the love of God, he was able to practice the presence of God in the midst of it. this same principle was applied to every facet of his life and practicing it enabled him to enjoy life in a superior manner.  He turned what could have been a boring, mundane, miserable existence into one that was admired and coveted by many.  People wanted his simplicity, joy, peace, and profound ability to converse with God while doing everything he did."

We live in a driven society.  We're a multitasking generation.  And our lives are a messy blur much of the time.  We need to carefully set our minds to live in the present and enjoy each moment.  Her challenge is to "give yourself to what you are doing" and "to appreciate each moment that you are given as a rare and precious gift from God." If you're listening to your children, listen - don't be planning your grocery list.  If you're kissing your husband, do I even need to say it?  Be all there!  Not all multitasking is evil by any stretch, but it can be.
"The ability to e-mail and text is certainly convenient and has enabled us to communicate much faster, but if we let every little beep of the phone or message that announces 'You've go mail,' be the controlling factor in our lives, we will end up frustrated and often appear to be rude.  Listening requires your attention and pretending to listen when in reality your mind is on ten other things is not only rude, but it does nothing to build good relationships."  
The author also stresses that many of us have to let go of the past, that we need to choose our battles, and should recognize that we cannot meet everyone's expectations.  If you do a study on "joy" in the Bible, you'll find that it is linked in large degree to fellowship with God and His people.  There is joy in knowing that God's grace and Christ's blood is sufficient to wipe out our debt...I love what Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 "...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 Christ Jesus."  So if your past haunts you, forget it in the sense Paul means here and press forward in Christ.  If you're a people pleaser and you're frustrated all the time because you can't meet everyone's expectations, take a breath and remember it is Christ who purchased you with His own blood and it is to Him that you'll give account...get your marching orders from Him and then give yourself to whatever He puts into your hand.  He is big enough to handle the expectations of others.

Her last exhortation in this chapter is "Don't wait to enjoy yourself."  Some people break their life up into segments thinking things like "this is my work, and when my work is over, I will enjoy myself."  Our TGIF society lends itself to that kind of thinking...living for the weekend.  If that is you, remember the lesson of Brother Lawrence and learn from him...seek the presence of God in each present moment He gives, and enjoy Him in it.  

Cora


In my post titled Preconceived Ideas, I said: "After weeks, I finally walked over to the nursing home to introduce myself and that began a most incredible journey...the truth of the matter is that God knew I needed these older ladies in my life as much if not more than they needed me.  But that's a story for another time."

Another time has come...
About 16 years ago, I met Cora.  She was in her 80’s and had lived in nursing homes for 30 years.  She was blind, diabetic and had numerous health difficulties that contributed to her mostly bedridden state of life.  It pains me to admit that my heart was not in this meeting.  I had felt compelled by the Spirit to go to this nursing home to spend time with the elderly and read the Bible to anyone interested, but I had come up with every excuse possible to avoid obeying my gracious King.  And if you really want to know the blackness of my heart at the time, I was more than mildly unsettled by the reality that the first person I got introduced to was Cora.
     
Within minutes, I had judged by her impeded speech that she was no longer intelligible. The years and ailments had taken their toll on her outward body.  She was hard to look at and even harder to understand, and the odor in the room turned my stomach.  Foolishly, I whined at God. “Why am I here?  How am I supposed to even communicate with her?” It was not a good first day!

Looking back now, I know that it was really ME that was blind…blind to God’s good purposes and blind to beauty that a foolish eye can't see.  I’m horribly ashamed now to even admit that all I saw that day was a disfigured, lonely old woman, whose body was falling apart, taking up bed space at a nursing home.  I dared to question God as to why He even had her still breathing.  My evaluation of the situation called into question God’s goodness and His purposes…how could He let someone remain like that for SO LONG?  “Just take her home, Lord.” Her lot in life seemed cruel to me.

I had fears at that point in my life of growing old and being abandoned and the day I met Cora I felt like those fears were confirmed & nearly consumed me.  So much exploded in my mind in the hours and days after our first meeting.  BUT God had pulled out His scalpel and had begun to do surgery on me...all I knew then was the pain of the first cut.  I had no idea what God was going to do.  I had no idea that He intended to give me a very special gift of friendship with this woman, and open my blind eyes, and cast away my fears, and grow me in compassion. 

God encouraged me with Zech. 4:10 to not despise the day of small beginnings.  Small beginnings?  “You mean you want me to go back there, God?” 

Compelled by His Spirit, I went back, week after week.  God began to peel back the scales from my eyes and over time I came to see just how beautiful Cora was.  It’s true that her speech was impaired, but she had a patience about her that was remarkable and she would try and try again until I could understand what she was trying to say.  And God grew my patience in the listening.

God tells us that His people still bring forth fruit in their old age (Psalm 92:14).  I am convinced that I am one of Cora’s many fruits by God’s grace. 
 
The Apostle Paul wrote from prison and told us to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice”...Cora, imprisoned in her own dilapidated body, did that.  She was one of the most joy-filled people I’ve ever known though her circumstances were FAR from desirable.  I could tell many stories about Cora and the scripture truths she illustrated for me through her very real trust in God, her prayer-warriorishness, her contented spirit in accepting from God whatever His hand brought her, and her hope of being with God through all eternity.  She understood that “this momentary affliction is not worthy to be compared with the glory that awaits us in Christ Jesus.” 

I was SO WRONG in my thinking and evaluations that first day.  And God was and is SO GRACIOUS.  God is the Giver of life and as long as He gives it, He has designs for His glory and our good in the course of every breath and every heartbeat.  Cora’s life, to her dying breath, was filled with meaning and purpose and fruitfulness.  Yours will be too.  Mine will be too.  Because God is who He is, and because His word to us is sure.  We can rest there, in His arms, ALL the time (young or old, weak or strong, clothed or naked, hungry or full, chained or free, prosperous or poor, vibrant or in pain). 

I look forward to being able to see as clearly as Cora now sees.  What a precious gift her friendship was for the two years God gave it.  Truth be told, it is a gift that keeps giving.  A gift I didn’t even want.  How many gifts of God do we foolishly resist?  I’m so glad that His grace overcomes my foolishness!

The other day I saw someone sign a comment they had made on a blog with “Still on the Potter’s wheel,” followed by their name.  STILL ON THE POTTER’S WHEEL…yep, that’s me!  Then and now.  Lord, please keep molding me into Your image.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Power Thought #9

I pursue peace with God, myself, and others.
[Unlabeled quotes are taken from the book Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer.]

We've lingered long in this chapter, using various portions as springboards for morning discussions around the breakfast table.  Sin breaks relationship and multiplies destruction...in our fallen state, that comes naturally.  But peace?  We need a lot of practice...we need to pursue it.  God tells us in Psalm 34:14 to "Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."  In Romans 12:17-19, we're instructed to "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."

Notice in both of those passages, departing from evil/doing good is connected with the pursuit of peace.  The author's starting point is rightly that we must recognize that we are sinners in need of a Savior; we must believe Jesus died for us, taking the punishment we deserved upon Himself.  Then she jumps right into this idea of departing from evil/doing good (according to God's definition, not whatever we want to call good or evil apart from His Word). "We must always come clean with God," she says.  As we work to put off the old man and to put on the new, we will still sin and when we do, we need to run to God (see 1 John 1:9).  God is good and kind and merciful to the contrite of heart, to those who call upon His name...believe that and confess your wrongs and move forward in His grace. 

"...focusing on my faults only increased them.  I had to learn how to focus on Jesus and what He had done for me, and I had to truly believe that He loved me."  

With God, forgiveness works one direction: God forgives us.  What we broke with our sin, He fixed with His sacrifice and loving forgiveness.  God never needs our forgiveness, but He does invite us to pursue peace with Him.  Our end has to do with departing from evil and doing good, and that too is done only in dependence upon His grace.  Soak that in because we can only give what has first been given to us.
As we pursue peace with other people, we all get the opportunity to seek and to extend forgiveness, to love and be patient and make sacrifices.  The author gives a few helpful hints on how to improve our relationships with others:
  • Maintain peace with God and yourself...understand the grace extended to you and you'll be better prepared to pursue peace with all types of people.
  • "Don't expect people to be perfect, because they won't be."  If you think everything needs to be perfect, you are "destined to be frustrated and discontented most of the time. Don't spend your life trying to make the impossible possible.  People have faults and there is no way around it!  No matter who you are in relationship with there will be times when they will disappoint you, so plan on forgiving frequently."
  • Plan to enjoy the uniqueness of others.  God has given us temperaments and strengths and weaknesses and interests that differ from one another...this is His design.  Appreciate others for who they are; don't try to make them into what you want them to be.
  • Look for opportunities to encourage and celebrate the handiwork of God in others.  Avoid being a nit-picky faultfinder.   There is certainly a place for loving admonishment when needed, but this point is describing the one who is always snarking at others about how they left the light on or they missed a spot when they washed the car.  
"Most people want peace, but they don't do what they need to do in order to have it."  
May God help us to want and to do...
"as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" 
(Rom. 12:18)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to do the next thing...

It has become a regular practice in these recent months for me to log into a site called A Holy Experience where posts are written almost daily by Ann Voskamp.  She is a sister in Christ who I have yet to meet, but whose influence I am welcoming with something akin to hunger.  This morning I poured a cup of tea and pulled up a chair for my daily dose.  My hubby is sleeping in (a rare and precious treat for him) and I took some time to meander through her archives...lingering here is just what the Doctor ordered.

I was drawn to a post titled "When perfectionism and to-do lists overwhelm." (I highly recommend it.) This morning, seagulls soar and oceans roar for me, but can I glean in these quiet moments some help for the typical days of my life when to-do lists run longer than the hours in the day?
"When the problems before you seem to loom larger than the Power behind you, the purpose in living can fall right out from underneath of you."
My mind interacts with her written thoughts...I think of Peter walking on the water when his eyes are fixed on Jesus and how he sinks when he looks away from Him and to the storm.  I read and soak in the emphasis on trusting God and praising Him as we do the next thing.  And because time allows I follow the link she has for "do the next thing" and it takes me to an interview with Elizabeth Elliot.  From there, among other things, I savor this poem which she quoted:

Do it immediately, 
do it with prayer, 
do it reliantly, 
casting all care. 
Do it with reverence, 
tracing His hand 
who placed it before thee with earnest command. 
Stayed on omnipotence, 
safe 'neath His wing, 
leave all resultings, 
do the next thing.

My next thing today isn't pressing in on me...the Lord is giving us rest.  But might I remember this in a few days when the onslaught of activity and demands hit once more?  Oh that I would keep my eyes fixed on Jesus!  

The Waves obey Him

Licorice spice tea to sip.  The sweet aroma of a glowing ginger pumpkin candle filling the room.  I sit next to 10 feet of window looking out over the Pacific ocean feeling unspeakably happy.  The roar of its crashing waves speak to me of my Father who says "this far you may come, and no farther."  The waves obey Him. 

In my last post I mentioned friends, the Masers.  It has been four months since they last held Caleb.  Four months since the courts declared Caleb to be a Maser.  Four months of waiting for the waves of paperwork to reach their resting place on the shoreline. Yesterday God made it clear that this paperwork trial could only come this far and no farther...they're cleared and tomorrow they leave to go to Ethiopia to bring their son HOME.  Yes, the waves (literally and figuratively) obey Him.

You can read Melissa's own words here: falling-on-my-knees.

Jonathan and Melissa Maser and family...we are rejoicing with you over what God has done and will continue to do!

Monday, November 14, 2011

orphans no longer...joy!

For anybody who has followed my blog for very long, you know that one of the things our family really loves to do is to help orphans become members of Christian families.  Here is an amazing video that David and Erica Shubin put together to share with their church body for Orphan Sunday...in it, you'll see a number of the families featured that we've been so privileged to come alongside in their adoption journeys.  Some of you have joined us in those journeys...thank you! 


I cannot watch this without tears of joy flowing.  We continue to rejoice that Silas and Zahra are now Shubins, Abby is now a Walser, Karis is now a Waulk, and Caleb is now a Maser.

Caleb is legally a Maser, but we still need to pray him HOME.  He is in Ethiopia waiting for some paperwork to clear to allow him to travel...it has been a long, painful wait...please PRAY for him and his family to be able to be united very soon.

A special thank you David and Erica for producing this wonderful video!  We love you and yours...so glad these adoption journeys have linked our lives together in friendship.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

18 years...

It started at the alter on November 13th, 1993.

18 glorious years of doing life together...
what a gift!!!  

I am so.so.so thankful for the partner God gave me.


Til by death we do part in this land of our sojourning,
With the daily grace of God supplying our every need,


"Grow old along with me,
the best is yet to be."


Preconceived ideas?

The kids are scattered away overnight with friends for the fun of it...meat is simmering to tenderness on the stove top as my list of things to do stares at me from the whiteboard.  Somehow we managed to plan an insanely busy day once the time-scheduled events begin, but for now I am enjoying a quiet moment of reflection.  This is what I'm thinking about...

There is a scenario that plays itself out around here...I suspect you can relate.  Say you're working on something really exciting, like laundry.  The basket is filled with warmness and you're just beginning to switch yet another load of the wash over to the dryer when one of your children cheerfully comes up and asked if help is wanted.  Help?  Sure.  A conversation like this may be involved:

Child: “Can I help you?”
Parent: "Yes, would you please run this hamper down to my bed, dump it out and bring the hamper back to me?
Child (with pouty face): “But I wanted to empty the washer.”
Parent (not snarkily, but kindly - in an attempt to help the child understand what their less than cheerful whine of a response is really communicating): "Do you want to help or do you just want to do what you want to do and call it helping?"
Child: "Sorry Mommy, I'll run the hamper down."

Personalizing this a bit, I asked myself the question: As I run to my Father to offer myself in service, how quick am I to cheerfully do what He asks of me?  Do I go to Him in prayer with my preconceived ideas of how I want to serve?  Do I pout or make excuses when the opportunity He's giving me isn't what I wanted? 

One time springs to my memory.  In my newlywed days I had some time on my hands.  Mike and I were praying about various ways I could use that time to minister to others.  Very clearly, almost as if the idea was being pressed physically upon my chest, the thought of developing relationships with some elderly women at a nearby nursing home and reading the Scriptures to them kept overtaking the thoughts of other things that felt much more appealing to me.  I came up with all kinds of excuses...my sister had worked at that nursing home when I was a young girl and I would sometimes run her lunch over to her...it stunk in there...just sayin'.  I felt awkward around older people.  "I'm not the one for this job," I told God day after day. I wanted to start a Bible study with some high school girls or you can fill in the blank with just about anything except what I felt like God was asking me to do.  I'm pretty sure I heard my Father ask me: "Do you want to help, or do you just want to do what you want to do and call it helping?"  Now this is a little tricky because there is no "thus sayeth the Lord" verse in the Bible telling you "do this, not that" in situations like this, but I kid you not...as Mike and I prayed, we both "knew."  After weeks, I finally walked over to the nursing home to introduce myself and that began a most incredible journey...the truth of the matter is that God knew I needed these older ladies in my life as much if not more than they needed me.  But that's a story for another time. 

I think of the laundry example above and so often the things I ask of my children frankly fall into the utilitarian category...the job just needs to get done and they are able bodies.  Of course I care about THEM, and the jobs are also about training them up to love and serve God, but with God,  He's so clearly and perfectly transforming us, making us more and more Christ-like.  That is the front burner issue.  He's building His kingdom and preparing His bride.  All the opportunities He puts before us to serve are opportunities for us to trust Him and to display His glory and grace working in and through us. Let's trust that He sees the big picture...trust that He loves us with passion...trust that as He asks us to bend low it is because that is His way of lifting us up. 

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." - Matthew 16:25

Do you want to help?

What is God asking you to do today?  Are you pouting or jumping into His plan?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Power Thought #8

God meets all my needs abundantly.
[Unlabeled quotes are taken from the book Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer.]
This chapter is an encouragement to trust that God does and will continue to faithfully "provide whatever we need in every situation."  My mind springboards to question: Do I believe that?  All the time?  Oh that I would.  How about you? 

I often refer to a quote by Thomas Watson from his book, All Things for Good: "If it is good for us, we shall have it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good."  In the big picture, when we look back through the clear lens of glory, I am convinced that we will be in full agreement with God that He indeed was, is, and always will be wholly good and that He provided faithfully and abundantly everything we needed in every situation while He gave us breath on this earth.  But how do we fully agree NOW, while yet in this broken world filled with sin (ours and others) that blinds our eyes to His glory, His goodness and His perfect provision?  By faith!  By choosing to see His provision via the lens of His Word, not by the discontent longings of our deceived hearts that have believed the serpent's tongue.

I wrestle.  The power thought is worthy to say out loud, and to labor to weave into the warp and woof of my being.  It's needful.  God does indeed meet all my needs abundantly, and yet so often I don't take care to see it.  I don't take time to thank Him, like the 9 lepers who failed to return after He healed them (Luke 17). Our "grace-sleuth" game is helping (referred to in this post)...helping me to notice what God so graciously gives.  

I read the words in this power thought chapter and in between the author's words, God grafted many others from various sources, and He brought clarity to my mind.  Though parts of this chapter were helpful, I flinched at other parts.  That's okay.  In every book I read, I try to glean what is edible and dismiss that which would not be good to consume.

And as I glean, I find God feeding me, reminding me that He IS good, and He DOES meet all my needs abundantly.  I want to walk with eyes of faith...will you join me in trusting the goodness of our Father to meet all our needs according to the riches of His grace?  

We can glean from the crop of man-books, but we can feast upon God's Word where every bite is nourishment for the soul...here are a few passages that will help us put on the power thought "God meets all my needs abundantly."
Phil. 4:14-20
Deut. 8 (all)
Ps. 84:11
2 Cor. 9:6-11
Ps. 36:5-10

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Paul


Ann Voskamp quotes G.K. Chesterton as having said:
“Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?”

She then goes on to ask “Why doesn’t anyone ask that why question?  Why are we allowed two?  Why lavished with three?  A whole string of grace days?” ~ taken from her book, 1000 Gifts.

Oh how thankful I am to God for a whole string of grace days with my son, Paul, who is seven years old starting today!!!  Last night, the kids and I took a stroll down a photograph laden memory lane…wanna join us for the quick version?

Paul’s homecoming (he was 3 days shy of 7 months old):
 
We had over 40 people join us at the airport...those moments, though forever etched into this Mama's heart, seem a distant memory. The years have come so quickly.

One:
(oh, was I supposed to eat it?)

Two:
(my favorite two guys in the world!)

Three:

Four:
(rough and tumble, through and through)


Five:
(celebrating with a cousin/buddy - they are five days apart in age)


Six:
(a park party with a number of good friends)


and today, my son is SEVEN...
He woke up early this morning 
(after having trouble going to sleep last night)...
yes, he is a wee bit excited about celebrating his birthday!  
We'll be doing the celebrating later,
like when everyone else is awake, 
but since he's up I had him pose in all his bed head glory for ya'll.  



Paul is a living, changing, growing gift that God has placed in my open hands to nurture and raise for His glory...every day that He gives is a new gift, a new opportunity to delight ourselves in God.  He has blessed us with a whole string of grace days.  And we are grateful.

Father, thank You for each day you've given, for knitting THIS boy into our family by adoption, for beginning a good work in him and for your promise to finish what You've begun...may he become more and more like a tree, planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season.

Happy birthday, Son!  
We love you!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thanksters or Cranksters?

"The great purpose in life is not to stay alive, but to magnify - whether by life or by death - the One who created us and died for us and lives as Lord of all forever, Jesus Christ."
- The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God, pg 9, by John Piper

Above my kitchen sink, I have a spiral 3X5 card notebook in which I have written various Scripture passages and quotes I want to think on as I do my dishes.  The above quote is currently the one I have it opened to. As is often the case, when I am chewing on a quote, God will lay open from many sources things that relate or add light to the thought.  This morning, I read a few short chapters from Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovic...one was titled "Thanksters and Cranksters."  Which of these two labels is characteristically true of me?  Of you?  What magnifies our Lord?  

Let us aim to be "thanksters" today, and to magnify God in our every circumstance, whether by life or by death.

Monday, October 17, 2011

snuggle time

Less than two weeks from now, tickets in hand, my oldest daughter and I plan to go to the Steven Curtis Chapman/Andrew Peterson/Josh Wilson concert.  To say we're looking forward to it is an understatement...we're stoked!

To help us get ready, Mike surprised me last week with Andrew Peterson's more recent album "Counting Stars."  We have most of his older music, and love it!  As is tradition, we curled up on the couch together to listen through the new album, lyrics in hand, sharing our thoughts song by song as they played.  I love any opportunity for snuggle time with my man!  Add good music, and it just gets even better. Andrew is poetic and is able to convey truth through stories and song in a way that reaches me...we both found much to enjoy on this new CD.

Steven sings a song to Mary Beth, his wife, to remind her she is changing the world one little heart beat at a time.  Andrew wrote the same theme from a different angle in his "Planting Trees" song...be encouraged to change the world, to plant trees...snuggle up with someone you love and listen to this:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Power Thought #7

Speed...more to do...life whirling past.  Duty driving, joy eluding.  Fatigue unending.  Gasping for air.  Tears falling without warning.  Weeks ago, in this unstable state, I asked my husband if I could go spend a few days with Bible and notebook, in a place of quiet rest and beauty.  He nodded agreement and plans were made.  Our children stayed with friends and family, my husband worked hard each day and endured a lonely house out of love for me, and I went to prostrate myself before my Father where He tenderly massaged my aching soul and refreshed me in His Word and love.  This was the view from my window:
Lovely, isn't it?  Three days/nights of the ocean's roar and beauty, lesson's from God's Word and prayerful walks, simple meals and rest, yes rest in every way.  I came HOME, breathing peacefully and focused and ready to enter into the life God is giving me with joy once more. 

The next day, the kids and I sat down to open up our next Power Thoughts chapter.  Turning to it, I laughed out loud.  As soon as I read the title to them, we were all laughing, and giving God thanks for continuing the good work He has begun in me (and all of us).  There is no denying it, I am certainly a work in progress!

Power Thought # 7 is: "I am content and emotionally stable." Of course there would have been zero humor to the title had we begun it a couple week's prior when I was an emotional wreck, but THAT day, it was funny!  Let's dive in...as has become my pattern, any unlabeled quotes are taken from the book Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer.

I think the  heart of what she has to say in this chapter is that though emotions are here to stay, we need to learn to manage them and not rely on them.  We need to live by principle in contrast to our feelings, like trees firmly planted by the waterside.  She talks about emotion's power to deceive and how they can wrongly "urge us toward haste" whereas God tells us to be patient, to grow in wisdom and self-control and to walk according to His sure Word.

She makes an insightful connection between emotional instability and discontentment.  Next time you feel emotionally unstable, ask yourself if you are focused on what you do not have, or what you wish you had.  Discontentment may not always be fueling the instability fire, but I know without a doubt that it does sometimes.  If in a raw moment of honesty you answer "yes, this is true of me," begin a list of all the things God has blessed you with and begin thanking Him out loud for them.  She encourages us to count our blessings.  

At our house, we've been playing a little "grace sleuth" game for the past couple of weeks where we remind ourselves each morning that since God is holy and we are sinners, we deserve His holy and eternal wrath, but instead (because of His overflowing love and grace) we get:  cozy beds and abundant food and tastebuds and hugs and carpet squishing under our bare toes and gifts of knowledge and forgiveness of sins and transformation by God's good grace, and on and on.  We're all recording our "grace gifts" in a journal and sharing them with each other, joining hearts and hands in giving Him thanks.  Instead of instability and whacked emotions, we are experiencing joy and a growing trust in our Sovereign Father who gives us every spiritual blessing and provides our every earthly need in Christ.  Thankfulness to the Giver, trust in God's unfailing goodness toward those who call upon Him, and contentment are mighty stabilizers!

I do not recall her mentioning this, but I've found in my life as I reflect on this power thought that there are certain warning signs...signs like when I begin to press so hard and fast that time in God's Word is laid aside, rest is minimized, convenience foods become my body's only fuel and there is no time to exercise (not to mention sharp tongue, clenched jaw, tightness of chest, etc)...and when these warnings, these signs that I'm growing discontent are unheeded, instability is surely my frame or soon will be.  And thank God!  This too is grace, a tool in God's loving, disciplining hand to awaken us to the insanity of our racing down the road that leads away from Him.  Jesus tells us in Matt 11:28-30 to "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." 

Here are a few other verses to meditate on as you put on "I am content and emotionally stable":
  • 1 Tim 6:6-8 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content."
  • Phil 4:11-13 "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
  • 1 Thess 5:16-18 "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Blessings,
Connie

Sunday, October 2, 2011

When does your day begin?

Mike and I were in a bookstore recently (shock, I know!) and he handed me a book that he thought I may like to peruse so I stood there in the aisle and skimmed it quickly...it didn't take long for me to determine that I didn't want to read the whole book, but one thing I read spoke a word of encouragement to me.  The author posed the question: When does your day begin?  Is it when you drag your hiney out of bed?  Is it when you pour a cup of that beloved drug of choice, coffee?  When?  What does God tell us about when our day begins? From Genesis 1, we read...
·         So the evening and the morning were the first day.
·         So the evening and the morning were the second day.    
·         So the evening and the morning were the third day.
·         And so on…”evening and the morning” = day.
Our day begins with rest, not a cup of coffee.  God gives rest, He strengthens first.  It was simply an encouragement to me to be reminded of that.  Perspective matters.

In the Old Testament, man was commanded to work six days and rest the seventh…isn’t it beautiful that with the coming of Jesus who is making all things new, our week now begins with rest and then we work 6 days.  In God’s original creation He gave us rest first in the day, and in the new creation He gives us a day of rest/worship before asking us to do a single lick of labor.  Our week doesn’t start with a to-do list, it starts with gathering with our Savior in our Father’s house with all our family in heaven on earth to worship and praise the God of all grace!  Our day doesn’t begin with the “drug of choice” to get us moving and able to take on the day, it begins with rest given by our Father to prepare us for the new day He is graciously giving us to live out in His presence open handed to receive all He gives, with joy, for His glory.

To God be all glory!  May He give you rest as you gather with His people to praise Him today!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Power Thought #6


I trust God completely; 
there is no need to worry!
[Unlabeled quotes are taken from the book Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer.]

Hello Bloggy friends!  I found a lot of value in this chapter.  Truth be known, I am a recovering "worrier", on the road to trusting God completely.  Here is the "quick meal" version, for those of you following along and wanting to get the gist of each chapter without having to read the whole book.  God is certainly worthy of our trust...may He give us all the desire and grace to trust Him more completely each day, and a distaste for worry.
“I have heard many people say, ‘I just can’t help it; I am a worrier.’ The truth is that they chose to worry because they did not know how to trust God.  We become good at worrying because we practice it and we can also become good at trusting God if we practice it.  Let your first response in any situation be to trust God, not to worry.  Speak out loud and say, ‘I trust God completely; there is no need to worry!’”

“Trust requires some unanswered questions, and being satisfied to know that God knows what we don’t know.  We know in part, but God knows everything.  He is never surprised or without a solution.”

“It is one thing to know that we should not worry, but it is quite another to stop worrying.  One of the things that helped me let go of worry was finally realizing how utterly useless it was.  Let me ask you some questions: How many problems have you solved by worrying?  How much time have you sent worrying about things that never even happened? Has anything ever gotten any better as a result of your worrying about it?  Of course not!  The Bible is full of sound, proven advice for dealing with worry.  For example the apostle Paul teaches us to be anxious for nothing, but in all circumstances to let our prayer requests be made known to God with thanksgiving (see Philippians 4:6).  He then encourages us by saying that the peace of God will fill our hearts and minds (see Philippians 4:7).  The instant you begin to worry or feel anxious, give your concern to God in prayer.  Release the weight of it and totally trust Him to either show you what to do or to take care of it Himself.”

“Filling my mind with good thoughts is easier than trying to empty it of negative ones.”

Some verses that relate:
Matthew 6:25-34/Luke 12:22-31
Hebrews 13:5
Philippians 4:6-9
Proverbs 3:5
Matthew 11:28
Galatians 5:16
1 Peter 5:6-7

Blessings,
Connie

PS: I read a post by Greg Lucas this morning that certainly relates and is well worth reading...you can find it here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fun Quote Day


It's "fun quote" day!  Here are a few I've liked over the years:

"Where the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways. Where it is unwilling, it will find a thousand excuses."
~ Arlen Price

"Will you look back on life and say, "I wish I had," or "I'm glad I did"?"
~ Zig Ziglar 

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
~ Lao Tzu 

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
~ Theodore Roosevelt 

"Those who wish to sing, always find a song."
~ Swedish proverb

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
~ unknown

"Some people walk in the rain... others just get wet... " 
~ Roger Miller

"A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition."
~ William Arthur Ward


Monday, September 5, 2011

Power Thought #5

I love people and I enjoy helping them.
[Unlabeled quotes are taken from the book Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer.]

In this chapter we are reminded of the generosity of God toward us.  The Bible tells us that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). God has put His love into the hearts of His children, and the point of this chapter is that we are designed by Him as He makes us new in Christ to be dispensers of His love.

The author contrasts stingy folks with generous ones.  A stingy person characteristically looks out only for himself and his own interests, does not like to share, only gives when he feels he must (reluctantly or grudgingly), and his focus is often “what about me?”  Contrast this with someone characterized by generosity – he looks and listens for opportunities to help or encourage others and cheerfully takes initiative to meet the needs when able, his focus/desire is to be a blessing to others.

“I encourage you to begin to think on purpose about how you can be a blessing to the people around you...it does not have to cost money although at times it may; it does not always have to take much time; and it does not have to take an enormous amount of energy.  Blessing people can be quick and easy, but it won’t just happen.  You have to do it deliberately.  At times what God asks us to do may be more costly to us in time, effort, or finances than at other times, but either way we need to be ready to be God’s ambassador on Earth.  Use what you have in the service of God and man...I am not talking about only putting money into an offering at church on Sundays.  I am talking about doing things for people in your daily life – people you work with, people in your family, people you like and people you may not particularly like, people you know and people you don’t know, and those you think deserve it as well as those you don’t think deserve it."

I'm a very visual and symbolic sort of soul so I really liked this word picture:  “I am reminded of a bottle of hand lotion I have, one that has a pump on it.  When I press the pump, it dispenses hand lotion.  That’s the way I want to be with blessings.  When people come near me, I want to dispense something good, something that will benefit them.”

She offered some inventory questions to help us see where we might need to grow a more generous spirit:
*   How well do I tip?  If I were a waiter or waitress, would I want to wait on myself, based on the way I tip?
*   What kinds of gifts do I give?  Do I give the cheapest things I can find?  Do I get anything just to meet an obligation or do I sincerely look for what I believe the person receiving the gift would enjoy?
*   Do I freely and frequently encourage and compliment other people?
*   Am I willing to share what I have?
*   Do I hoard possessions or do I give away what I’m not using?
*   When I have opportunities to give to those less fortunate than I am, do I give generously?  Do I do as much as I can or as little as I can?
*   If I’m with someone who has a cold and runny nose, and I have been carrying around a package of tissues for weeks, do I give that person only one tissue, or do I offer the entire package so they will have plenty?
*   Do I give someone else the best-looking steak at dinner or do I keep that one for myself?

We could ask all kinds of questions to “help us locate our level of generosity.”  But really, if we’re honest, we know we all have room to grow in this arena and that the opportunities to practice abound.  “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity to express love.”  So let’s practice!  Let's think intentionally of others.  Let's look and listen for ways to be a blessing dispenser and be one.  If we become aware of areas where we are stingy, let's repent and move forward in grace.  As Hebrews 10:24 puts it, “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

“Think and say, ‘I love people and I enjoy helping them.’”  Here are some passages that relate:
Gal. 6:10
Mark 8:34
1 John 3:16-18
Matt. 5:44-48
Heb. 13:16
2 Cor. 9:5
Prov. 11:24
Acts 28:10

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hebrews 13:5

My husband read Hebrews 13:5 to us tonight at dinner, which says: "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"  He went on to share some mighty good words with us about the centrality of Jesus in our lives.  Words I needed to hear once more!

The kids and I went to stay with a friend for the first few days of this week and guess what verse my friend had plastered in her kitchen?  Hebrews 13:5 (well, the second part of it anyway!).  She had it written in an amplified version and I loved it so much I copied it down in my Bible:  "I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor relax my hold on you assuredly not."  This was the very message I needed to have poured over my frazzled soul, and my gracious Father hugged me with it at my friends house, and then again tonight through my sweet husband.

He will not relax His hold.  Amen!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An inexhaustible fountain...


The following is a quote I like from Hunger for God, by John Piper:

“One might think that those who feast most often on communion with God are the least hungry.  They turn often from the innocent pleasures of the world to linger more directly in the presence of God though the revelation of his Word.  And there they eat the Bread of Heaven and drink the Living Water by meditation and faith.  But, paradoxically, it is not so that they are the least hungry saints.  The opposite is the case.  The strongest, most mature Christians I have ever met are the hungriest for God.  It might seem that those who eat most would be least hungry.  But that’s not the way it works with an inexhaustible fountain, and an infinite feast, and a glorious Lord.  When you take your stand on the finished work of God in Christ, and begin to drink at the River of Life and eat the Bread of Heaven, and know that you have found the end of all your longings, you only get hungrier for God. -- The more deeply you walk with Christ, the hungrier you get for Christ…the more homesick you get for heaven…the more you want ‘all the fullness of God’…the more you want to be done with sin…the more you want the Bridegroom to come again…the more you want the Church revived and purified with the beauty of Jesus…the more you want a great awakening to God’s reality in the cities…the more you want to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to penetrate the darkness of all the unreached peoples of the world…the more you want to see false worldviews yield to the force of Truth…the more you want to see pain relieved and tears wiped away and death destroyed…the more you long for every wrong to be made right and the justice and grace of God to fill the earth like the waters cover the sea.  If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied.  It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world.  Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”