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 " 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 for the weekend.  If that is you, remember the lesson of Brother Lawrence and learn from the presence of God in each present moment He gives, and enjoy Him in it.  


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 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!

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 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 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 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 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 sister had worked at that nursing home when I was a young girl and I would sometimes run her lunch over to 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 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 that He loves us with 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?