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Christmas Musings

Merry Christmas!  I sometimes feel this is a phrase we say as a marker to the season, when sometimes in our hearts, merry and cheery are not actually how we feel at this season.  Sure there is beautiful snow, but unlike when I was a child and loved the snow, making snowmen, or sledding, this year as an adult who drives a lot for work I see ice and hard driving conditions.  I see cold.  Instead of delighting in the making of cookies, I see calories and all of them adding to my waist that I already feel is expanding.  Instead of a cozy fireplace and stockings hung with care, I see lack in what I have versus what I think I want.  I miss the carefree days of childhood, when Christmas lists, cookie making, shopping, wrapped presents under the tree and snow days called me with wonder.  As an adult I find myself more cynical, more hardened to the joys of the season.  In fact the other month I told my sister that I sometimes feel like a child playing an adult.  Really, I feel like I haven’t truly grown up yet.  And I’m not talking maturity or aging, I’m talking the feeling of not having arrived yet. It’s the feeling of “who am I?”

This adult longs for the delight and simplicity of childhood.  I want the innocence of not understanding the cares of life, of worries over jobs, or of not having what we thought we would by now.  I want the above picture when my life actually feels like the bottom picture.  You know what I’m getting at?  So is it a Merry Christmas?  Even this blog hasn’t been touched much in the last year.  Has God not been talking to me this year?  Well, not exactly.  I just think He’s doing a lot of inner work inside of me.  Hidden work, known to Him but to me it feels like a long and weary season of “not yet.”

In fact, today, Christmas Day 2018, I am at home, quieted by the flu that arrived suddenly the night before Christmas Eve day.  Our plans disrupted, my husband eating tv dinners while I huddle in bed, sleeping or hoping to sleep.  Today I’m better, but our plans are still down to none.  The little gifts we have for each other still sit under the tree, there is not a spread of delicious food, there is not family or friends, we didn’t go to church, and Christmas cookies lie unopened on the counter their allure all but gone.

Today I read again the Christmas story as told in Luke.  Familiar words, yet new today, another birthday of Christ to remember.  Just like our birthdays, every year a chance to remember.  I’ve had the phrase in my head: The Jesus whose birth we celebrate this season is the same Jesus who died on a cross to save us from all sins.  Yet in the first few stories of his life as told in Luke, we see him a baby born, and then a preteen who gets lost from his family.  He stays behind in the temple and his family looses him.  He responds he had to be “in my Father’s house,”  which his parents didn’t understand.  But then he returns home and submits to them, and grows in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God.  And all of this Mary, his mother, ponders in her heart.

Hmm.  In Luke 2, Jesus story is all about growing up, and we hear very little of all of it.  There is much that is untold, much that is silent.  Chapter 3 has Jesus baptized and beginning ministry.  Matthew starts much the same, the first chapter is the geneology of Jesus, the 2nd his birth, and the third chapter his baptism and start of ministry.  Mark and John skip telling anything of the birth of Jesus.

So here I am on Christmas, lounging at home, eating soda crackers, drinking 7-Up and feeling the mundaneness of a typically exciting holiday.  I guess it just goes to show that the people and traditions make the day, not the day itself!  But as I think over this past year, and the season of long waiting, and as I reread Jesus’s story, I’m beginning to wonder.  We are told little in the Bible of Jesus’s growing, life, or years before His ministry.  And much is left out from what we are told, as John notes, “There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

Am I in a season of silence? Yes.  Do I feel weary in waiting?  Yes.  What is it I’m waiting for?  I’m not sure exactly.  Who am I and what am I to do?  God knows, even if it feels I do not.  But this I know for sure, I am a child of God.  I am loved by Him.  He is at work in my life.  Perhaps this is just a season of learning to give up control, of learning to wait, and of learning more of God’s love despite this.  Jesus grew in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man.  That’s all we know.  Perhaps that is my season as well: a time of learning, growing, and becoming.

Precious sisters, are you where I am too?  Are you wondering what God might be doing in you or through you?  May you find encouragement in the wait.  May you and I together press on in the mundane, silent, and uncertain seasons of life.  May we know God’s love, and His promises.  May we, like children, do our growing with unknown and uncaring attitudes!  As children we wanted baby teeth to fall out, drivers licenses, and priveleges that came with growing up.  But did we ever ponder how we’d grow.  No!  We just lived life each day, and looked in the mirror sometimes and saw new changes!  May we be that way as we go through a season of waiting, weariness, and feelings of “not yet.”  One day, we will be where God wants us to be, if for now we just focus on living one day at a time for Him and His glory!  Press on dear sisters!! For it really is a Merry Christmas, as Christ our Savior was born, and lives again, to one day return, and free us all from the weariness of life on earth! 

 

Number of the Stars

When I was a girl I read a great book called Number of the Stars by Lois Lowry.  I always liked it and read it several times.  I haven’t read it in years.  It’s about a girl whose best friend was a Jew.  She and her family helped this friend and her family escape from the Nazis.

I don’t remember if it states at all why the book is called Number of the Stars. But, I was reminded of this the other day during my quiet time.  I’m doing a study called: Walking in God’s Promises by Elizabeth George.  It is a “character study of Sarah.”  Since Sarah is married to Abraham, it is a study of both of their lives.  And God said to Abraham that he would become a great nation.  Abraham didn’t understand as he and Sarah had no children, and so he asked God for something tangible. God brought him out under the heavens and instructed him to look up and see all the stars.  God then told Abraham that his decedents would be more numerous than the stars!  That’s a great picture of how many decedents would come from Abraham.  Reading the Bible, we see that Abraham’s son was Isaac.  Isaac’s son Jacob was later called Israel by God. (Genesis 15:1-5, Genesis 21:1-3, Genesis 32:28).  Therefore, Abrahams descendants are the Israelites, or the Jews.  The Jewish race is more numerous than the stars, and it all started with this promise to Abraham! Perhaps, that’s why this book was titled as such, as the Jews were in danger during the days of Hitler, and this one Jewish girl and her family escaped.  Their (fictional but based off of reality) family line endured, and the Jewish race (more numerous than the stars) has never been eradicated.  It can’t be.  God promised Abraham.

When I was a little girl I also loved something else.  I loved our big front yard in the country.  I loved looking up at all the stars.  My mom got me a book on constellations.  I was no good at finding most of the stars.  But the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion with his belt, and the North Star were all fascinating to me.  I could find those all the time.  I miss the beauty of the vast night sky now that I live in the city.

I got to thinking the other night, as I was looking at the portion of sky that I can see, about God’s promise to Abraham and the Jewish race.  Then I was reminded of a verse I’d memorized in an especially dry and lonely season of singleness.  In a season when I felt God had forgotten me and my desire for a husband. It goes like this:

To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal? says the Holy One.

Lift your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord,’ … Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary.

As briefly mentioned in my previous post, I and my husband are in a season of weary waiting.  What is next?  Are we on the right path?  My job is fine, but exhausting in ways I never considered it would be.  I come home from work more often than not drained.  My husband and I ask God over and over for wisdom and help in this season.  We are feeling weary.  And honestly, that same feeling of “forgotten by God” sometimes likes to creep back in.  Just like Jacob (Israel) we assume “our way is hidden from God!”  And it frustrates us!

But, then my mind runs to my Bible study — walking in God’s promises.  God promised Abraham a child, a child that would have children, who would have children, and all of them would be known to God (even though they as a nation are more numerous than the stars!).  God knows each person of the Jewish race, and each person in general — even the number of hairs on each person’s head! (Psalms 39 assures me of this).  And in this passage I just quoted (Isaiah 40:25-29), God knows the names of each star!  Not only that, but because of who God is, not one star is missing!

I have to be awed over this.  Have to be.  I can not help it.  In the midst of my life season, I have to cling to who God is.  In the short passage of Isaiah I just quoted He is named: Holy One, the Lord, Everlasting God, and Creator of the ends of the earth.  He knows the number and names and placement of the stars.  He was able to promise Abraham a future of generations more numerous than the stars.  He knows the number of hairs on my and my husband’s head (and I just lost several this morning with a good brushing — He knows!).

Thus, I can not say that “my way is hidden from the Lord.”  I do though. I complain to God, forgetting this.  In his great mercy and patience, He forgives this in me, and brings me back again and again to His Word and the truth of His promises, His faithfulness, and His might and power over my life.

Dear Sister in Christ, are you also in a weary season of life?  God knows your name, the number of hairs on your head, and where you are!  He knows all this about the stars, and we as women made in His image have a much greater value to Him!  We can rest in this promise of God.  Our way is not hidden to Him. He is the Lord, and He knows.

Press on, dear woman!  God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… and of you and of me!  How encouraging is that!  Our God is faithful to each promise He makes, and because of His power and might, not one star is missing!  Never forget that!  And if you need a reminder of this amazing God … walk on outside tonight and look up!

 

Independence Day

Hello friends!  I’ve been slacking in writing here on this blog lately.  My thoughts are collecting in my journal, piling up complaints to heaven, whispering lies to me at night which keep me up at 3 in the morning.  My Bible study is feeling heavy, my study is ongoing and applicable so I should have much to write about, but I’m finding myself feeling weary.  I’ll give you an update in my next post, but for now one of the things I’m greatly appreciating during my morning drive time is listening to pastor and Bible teacher Michael Youssef.  Yesterday he presented a phenomenal sermon about our nation and the state it’s in.

We live in the end of times, I’m convinced.  My weariness in life — even in Bible study; the ways of the culture; politics; daily news stories; weariness of others in their lives; attending funerals.  I could list a bunch more! But really, we have an unseen enemy, and his power is limited and his demise is certain.  So why does it seem he wins so much?  These questions are all in the Bible too.  I just read Job the in the last couple of days.  Job’s trials were wearying to him as well.  Life hardships are nothing new.  But as we look at culture and read God’s Word, we know that the closer we get to Christ’s return, the greater satan’s anger.  He is brutal in every area of our lives.  Just writing that reminds me why life sometimes feels as it does.  He attacks us personally, he attacks our  marriages and families, he attacks our churches, he attacks our world, he is involved in politics, he is behind the scenes in all the ugliness of life!  Praise God we know his demise is certain, and that God’s power and Sovereignty are higher!

So friends, this Independence Day, may you be reminded of Christ Jesus, reigning on His Throne!  May you remember afresh God’s love poured out on the cross.  May you and I renew our passion for Christ, and His ways, His purpose, and His life in us.  I’m needing that reminder.  I’m needing that heavenward goal. I’m needing to “not grow weary in doing good.”

Blessings to all of you as we ponder our freedom, God’s gracious gift of love to us in Jesus, and the return of Christ which is ever nearer.

Here is the sermon I mentioned earlier by Michael Youssef.  Please listen to it!  It really is a reminder of how far our nation has come.  “Someone must pay,” he repeats.  Under every move of our nation away from God, regardless of the person or peoples behind it (who will be accountable before God) — lies Satan.  Satan knows his time is short.  Satan knows that God rules and reigns and will be sending Christ back to earth again, and he has upped his attacks.  Am I ready for Christ’s return by faithfully living for God today?  Are you?  Press on sisters!  I need to also in this season of weariness!

(PS: In case you are wondering… at this point in my blog my photos that I use are all free and have come from sources such as: publicdomainpictures.net)

Record Snowfall, Blocked Drains, Cleaning Fish Tanks … and Marriage

Whew!  What a title!  But here is my question for you: What do record snowfalls, blocked drains, and cleaning out a fish tank have to do with marriage?  I’m about to tell you!

This past weekend we marveled at the large amount of snow that fell.  Today is April 16th.  April 16!  And we had a blizzard!  On Friday the weather forecasters were saying 6-12 inches.  After the second time of shoveling my husband groaned that it felt more like 18 inches.  And the snow kept coming. I’m not sure the actual snow accumulation of this past weekend, but the birds started singing again this morning and the squirrels and bunnies were out prancing through the snow while the sun cheerfully came from behind the gloomy skies of yesterday.

To make the weekend even more eventful our kitchen sink drain backed up.  This too made my husband groan.  Around Friday evening it was draining slowly.  He commented he’d have to clean the trap.  Sunday morning (no church due to weather) while he cleared snow again, I made cinnamon roll biscuits, a nice treat to welcome him back inside. But as I washed the dishes the sink filled higher and higher.  Uh oh!  I gave him the delicious breakfast treat and told him I hated to give him the news but the drain was very slow.  VERY SLOW!  He said he was beat and he’d deal with it the next day.  But by that night, the slow draining turned into complete blockage.  Gross!

Monday morning we awoke and snow had stopped, but the blowing had pushed snow into the driveway again and plows had filled in the end of the driveway.  Our double kitchen sinks were both half-full of nasty water.  And I received the unexpected and welcome news than my work was cancelling the daily routes due to the weather.  Knowing my husband’s back was sore, and he was beat from a weekend fighting weather, I suggested I help him shovel.  He said no need to get my back sore too!  He looked at the sinks and told me they’d have to be drained with a bucket and a sponge.  He went out to shovel telling me that he’d deal with that later.

I grabbed a bucket, a sponge, and a plastic cup.  I can help you, I said.  So while he was out shoveling, I was cupful by cupful emptying nasty water into a bucket, toting the bucket to another sink, and cleaning out the sink.  That was a slow process!  But as I dipped that cup into the water, I was reminded of a similar chore at a different time in my life.

Our house flooded when I was in junior high.  We packed up belongings as high as possible, we took some stuff, we moved into a small apartment for the summer.  Before the apartment was ready, we’d all gone to different houses.  Our dog had go to a shelter for a short time while we were all split up, and boy was that hard!  Our dog had never been to a kennel of any kind!  But we left behind our fish in the tank.  I’m sorry fish!  I honestly didn’t think a whit about them.  My dog on the other hand, that was a different story!  So one day when we are cleaning in our home, my dad gave my sister and I the nasty chore of cleaning out the fish tank.  You can use your imagination I’m sure.  The electricity had been off, the poor fish had therefore frozen, and the tank of water and fish had sat for at least a month before we got around to cleaning it.  Talk about gross!

My sister and I put masks over our nose (it stunk!!) and went about it (perhaps not very cheerfully).  We were about half way into it when one of us (I’ll give her credit) made up a silly little song about cleaning a nasty fish tank out. We sang that little song over and over, until the task was done!  And we smiled at the silliness of the song and the looks of us with masks on, and the disgusting job we had been given.

Today, I’m thankful for that nasty task.  The cleaning of the sink wasn’t half as gross, or tedious!  While I worked today, I listened to my husband work outside.  He consistently pushed the shovel back and forth; I consistently dipped the cup in and out.  I thought while I worked.  I remembered the disgusting fish tank.  I remembered the singing and how it helped my mood.

So this morning as I worked I thanked God for unpleasant tasks.  Unpleasant tasks that come around so rarely are great reminders of how good we actually have it!  I have indoor plumbing and sinks that I normally give little thought about.  I have a husband who does the brunt of all the outside (heavy) work.  And I thought also of the blog post I’d read recently.  I really appreciate this author’s work.  She was talking about the ideals of marriage verses the reality of marriage.  She notes that “the monsters of suffering and difficulty are the friends you must learn to love.”

Hmm…. love.  I’ve been pondering love a bit lately.  Agape love is God’s unconditional, unselfish, wanting the best for the other type of love.  It’s the opposite of the selfishness that can happen in a marriage.  When my husband and I gladly help each other with some of the unpleasant tasks, when we give up our desires for the other’s best at the moment, when we tackle life together in all the moments of difficulties — it’s in those times that we love each other best.  When my husband thanks me for helping him with cleaning out the sink, or I appreciate the hard work he put in to keep the driveway ready for me to drive out without doing any work myself, then I know that we are learning the secret to lasting love.  We are learning that romance and passion can not carry a marriage.  But suffering and working together and laying down self for the sake of the other go a long way to make me a happy wife and him a happy husband!

 

Recipe For Success!

I love to cook!  Absolutely love it!  I love planning meals, I love grocery shopping and imagining meals.  I love preparing meals.  I find it calming to chop veggies and stir brownie batter.  I admit though, I hated canning as a kid — helping Mom preserve numerous cans of peaches and pears in the middle of the summer with no air – conditioning in the kitchen was pure drudgery!  But I loved the result of home canned peaches and pears!  After college I attempted my first solo canning experience. I put up four pints of tomato soup.  Four pints!  That is a VERY small amount!  I had four jars.  I looked at those jars lined up on the counter and was SO proud of myself.  They looked so homey!  I cried later in the day when I accidentally dropped one of those jars on the way to the pantry!  I haven’t really attempted canning since.  Now I have the same proud and happy feeling when I spend a day prepping freezer meals to pull out during the week or month for fast and delicious dinners that please my husband and fill our bellies with yummy food.

Recipes are forgiving.  Last night I made a taco casserole that was a little spicy for our liking so next time I’ll decrease the spice.  Cooking is experimental.  I find recipes that I’ll make again and again, and others that are disgusting in my opinion (even if they get rave reviews from others).  And making meals for just me is different than making them for me and my husband!  For instance, a favorite meal of mine is meatloaf. He can’t stand it!  I love the challenge of finding meals we both like!  Here is a “recipe for success” — at least in my kitchen this recipe is a winner!  (I will likely never have a cooking blog, though that sounds like fun!) But here is a new favorite I’ve made recently: Flourless Chocolate Torte from Well Plated.   Enjoy!

A successful recipe is different than a recipe for success.  Right? You might like that torte recipe and those you serve it too will as well. It might be a recipe that turns out perfect every time.  That is a successful recipe!  But a recipe for success?  Is that possible?  Many books claim 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or The Success Principles.  I’ve not read these books, but I’m sure the author’s lay out a roadmap of sorts.  They give hints and helps to “make it.”

But today, in my Bible reading, I came across secrets to victorious living.  I want to finish my life well.  Just yesterday I happened upon a sermon on just that topic, so others want the same thing! This morning as I read, I listed what I saw. In Deuteronomy chapters 3-5 Moses is talking to the people of Israel. He is recounting their past, and pointing them towards the future.

Some of the principles I find within these chapters include these “ingredients” for successful living! These are only a sample of what I saw!

  • No matter the obstacle, acknowledge God is Deliver and able to get around it.  Do you need delivered out of something that holds you captive, or do you need a way to overcome something?  God is able, and tells us not to fear the enemy or obstacle. (3:2-6)
  • Remember God’s faithfulness in the past and all He’s done for you.  Know that He fights for you! (3:21-22)
  • Learn God’s statues and judgments and commands.  Listen to them, follow them only. (4:5-6)
  • Keep yourself diligently. (4:9)
  • Fear God always. (4:10)
  • Worship God alone. (4:15-19)

These things are not like a recipe for food. They are not forgiving or adaptable.  These are how God lays out a plan for success.  But like a recipe they are meant to be shared and enjoyed!  Success according to God is not a secret!  These principles are to be tried again and again.  They are to be passed around to others.  They are to be savored like fine food!

Oh Sisters in Christ, may you enjoy the delight of delicious food (regardless of whether you or someone else cooks it!), and may you enjoy the commands and principles of God even more!  He wants us to be successful and to finish life well!  He wants to say well done to all of us when we get to heaven!  How will that happen?  Only by following the recipe for success layed out in God’s Word!

 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (Ps. 63:1-5)

 

 

There Will Be Signs…

The year was 1997.  I was in the 8th grade.  I lived in Moorhead, Minnesota.  Our house was a hustle and bustle of many people and muddied feet scurrying everywhere.  Mom had laid down plastic in an attempt to keep the mud off the kitchen floors.  The air outside was cold.  Snacks and warm drinks lined the kitchen table, inviting volunteers to stop for a break and enjoy the warmth of hot cocoa and a cookie.  But the break lasted far too briefly.  Outside was calling.  Outside where Dad was conducting the line of volunteers through the muddy springtime slush.  These volunteers were lined up along a row of sandbags.  The sandbags snaked around our whole house.  And these volunteers were placing one on top of another.  When they trudged in the house for a brief break, other volunteers filled their spots.  Thus, a wall begin to form.  A wall that challenged the rising Red River.  A wall that held our hopes securely inside.

But that wall broke.  One little sandbag wiggled free.  Pumps couldn’t keep up.  Volunteers now helped raise belongings as high as possible.  My parents decided that my sister and I needed out.  Roads in front of our house were soon to be covered with water.  I was told I had to leave with my relatives.  My parents stayed.  They tried to keep the pumps going, but it was a loosing battle.  That spring, 1997, our home flooded.  That spring my family went to three different homes for a few weeks.  That spring my family stayed in an apartment for most of the summer after school finished.  That spring turned into months of being out of the only place I’d ever called home.  That spring turned into a memory that none in our family will forget.

We grew up in a great house on the edge of town.  We had three acres of land bordered by the Red River to the West.  Each spring the water crept out of the banks, rising higher.  Most years the water stopped at the bottom of the small hill behind our house.  Our unfinished basement often faced the reality of water seeping in through cracks in the cement wall as the ground thawed and the river rose.  A few inches of water — no big deal.  Dad’s boxes were placed on secure cement blocks.  Mom’s rubber boots at the bottom of the stairway nestled my feet as I plopped laundry into the raised laundry machine.  It was normal.  Until the year when the “hundred year flood” happened upon us.  The year when our sandbag wall acted like an usher at a movie theater rather than a guard with strict orders.  That year the water came high above the basement.  That year the water reached knee level inside our rambler.  That year the mold crawled up the walls and each wall had to be stripped.  That year was 1997.  That year my parents might have moved.  But we kids didn’t want to.  That year came and went.

The year was 1999.  The “hundred year flood” of two years earlier was done and gone.  And I was crying.  I distinctly remember the news and the predictions.  Flood waters were rising.  Normal.  But the bottom of the hill behind our house was now covered again with water.  Predictions were placing the crest as high as the former hundred year flood of 1997.  Dad hadn’t wasted time with sandbags.  No, trucks had carried in dirt.  Trucks.  Not one.  Several loads of dirt became the new snake around our house.  Ugly wall.  Hope still secured within.  But within my chest fear was creeping in.  I’d seen this before.  Dad decided to put sandbags on top of the dirt dike.  So volunteers were around our house again.  But I was not helping.  I was crying.  A gentle woman from church came over to me and suggested a walk.  We walked away from the rising river.  We walked the still dry road.  I cried.   She listened.  It was supposed to be a 100 year flood, why was it happening again?  God was gracious. The water crept up the dike, but was not able to spill through or over.

The year was 2009 (I think).  I went with my roommate to help sandbag for a family in Fargo, ND (the sister city to Moorhead).  This particular family lived in a home well out of the flood plain, supposedly.  My own parents had moved by now.  The city had offered them a buyout as the land where my family home sat was needed to become a city dike.  Since my parents were dry and no longer needed my help, my roommate and I ended up at this unknown home, bussed there amid many volunteers helping.  We laid bags in a long line that the city had going behind many homes.  My arms ached as bags far larger than I should have held were passed from hand to hand to growing dike of sandbags.  I was grateful it wasn’t my home.  My emotions were different.  Yet I wondered at flooding again. (Here is a picture of our house during one of floods. One on top is the back of our home).

The year is 2017.  Hurricane Harvey blasted Houston, Texas weeks ago.  Hurricane Irma followed, and now Maria.  Devastation was left in their wakes.  Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico… and I’m sure other places.  The news pictures are awful.  Whereas I had time to prepare, many of these people were lifted from their homes in helicopters as water rose faster than anyone thought.  Tonight a lady on 60 Minutes swore when asked what she thought of a “500 year storm.”  Another lady who studies science and climate change discussed how hurricanes are effected by climate change and why they are getting worse.

The other day as I was driving home, I was listening to the gospel of Luke.  These words struck me: There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world (Luke 22:25-26).

Climate change.  Flooding and storms that are out of their typical pattern of 100 or 500 years.  Major storms.  A full eclipse of the sun.  Are these signs of the times?  To the Christian Luke says, Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (vs. 28).  Ok, I admit.  I do sometimes fear.  I wonder how life is going.  I know for a fact that this all means Jesus’ return is soon.  But I do worry.  Storms and flooding take things from us.  And I know, it’s hard to be out of home, hard to leave a house, hard to give up things.  Yes it is.  I know!  But the world at large talks of Mother Nature, and climate change becomes a political debate.

Dear Sister in Christ, our redemption is near.  The world is fearful over what is coming on the world.  I don’t have to fear. God said I don’t.  I am not always obedient to that command, however!  But the truth of the matter is, these times are in the hands of God Almighty.  The roaring of the waves are in his control.  And sometimes God calms storms instantly as He did in Luke chapter 8.  Other times, these things simply must just take place.  They are signs of the times!

So dear friend, let’s be women who are ready. Luke states Jesus’ words, “unless you repent you will all perish” (13:5).  Jesus alone is the remedy to our fear.  Yes, things will happen in our physical realm.  Yes, things can be and will be destroyed.  And yes, sometimes lives will be lost.  You and I are told that repentance (turning to believe in Jesus as God’s son), is the only way out of perishing.  Physical death is hard, but for the believer of Jesus Christ, this death puts us instantly with Christ himself!  But this verse talks about perishing, not only as physical death, but of separation from God.

As I watch these times my prayer is for my children.  Now I don’t have my own kids, but there are 8 littles in my life that I pray for daily.  They are the next generation.  We know from the signs that the redemption is near.  I pray my little children come to know and love Jesus.  Won’t you pray for those in your next generation.  The signs are pointing to Jesus’ return being ever nearer.  More flooding will come. More physical devastation will take place.  We need to prepare our youngsters!  Politicians and scientists shouldn’t be the only voice our children hear.  Let’s tell them about Jesus and His great saving love!

A Journey

I’m going on a journey.  It’s a long one.  It’s one I can’t plan for or prepare for.  And my planning, control – desiring self can’t really quite take it.  Oh it’s a surprise! I tell myself.  But really, I prefer to not have a surprise.

To be honest, I’m not sure I want to share my journey with you.  It’s like staring down a railroad track: endless, mile upon mile, bleak.  Yet I know that track is more than I can see, goes through pretty areas, and gets me to my destination.

So let’s go.  You can come with me if you want.  A friend to walk along side with — yes please!

But the truth comes again, we can only walk so far together.  Eventually you will follow your own track, and me mine.  Loneliness upon the journey is part of the process.  I’m convinced.  No spouse even can totally walk the journey with you.  They too have their own tracks.

You see we are journeying towards heaven.  Every single person on this earth is journeying towards heaven.  That’s the pretty way of saying it.  The dark way of saying it is that we are journeying towards death.  Each baby conceived takes his first cry the minute his lungs breath the air outside of the womb.  Some babies never make that first cry, their heartbeat stopping within the walls of a womb.  Some people can’t take the life they’ve been given or the consequences they’ve chosen by how they decide to live, so they choose their destiny and kill themselves.  Others choose to kill themselves for a cause that doesn’t even make sense.  Suicide bombers for example. Car accidents and diseases steal a life.  But most people start their lives and end their lives as God designed: conceived by egg and sperm joining and the amazing process of life beginning.  Cells multiply, fingers and toes form, hearts beat.  Life happens.  Legs and arms grow.  Haircuts change a thousand times, teeth fall out and are replaced by adult ones. Bodies mature.  Wrinkles and sunspots and grey hairs quietly take over.  Then, a casket envelopes the body.  A body now lifeless.  It’s the process of getting to heaven.

For a Christian, all I just described is natural and normal.  Life begins, life happens, life ends.  We are called to give up our body and let the spirit finally meet our God.  But we have hope of having new bodies someday, bodies raised in life.  For Jesus was the first-fruit of all that is to come.  He overcame death.  We will too.

But as we live on this earth we make choices that affect our eternities.  The first choice is choosing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God himself, sent to earth.  He died on a cross for the remission of sin for all mankind.  He rose again.  He shows us how life on earth can actually happen well.  But that means if we want to live for eternity now, that we make choices now on earth that we might not see the result of until we get to heaven.

I want to share a secret thought of my heart with you.  I’ve thought I was a pretty good Christian.  God called me to Himself at a young age.  As I’ve shared before I was not really rebellious. He drew my heart deeper into His Word and into loving Him. As a single I had plenty of time to develop myself in habits of Christian growth.  Secretly pride begin to develop in me.  I thought I was “doing this Christian life pretty well!”  Then I got married, switched jobs, and my husband and I are in a season of slow going.

Things deep in my heart started to surface.  Things that are not pretty.  Discontent, resentment, impatience, grumbling, questioning God’s ways, irritation over minor things, selfishness, envy, criticism.  I think you get the picture.  I also think you know exactly what I mean because these things come up into your thoughts or words as well.  Oh sure, not all the time.  I’m also seeing joy and delight in new ways.  But I’d be lying if I said those ugly things weren’t in me.

I am reading a book on marriage, that I highly recommend: A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas. He brings the idea of death into our marriage today.  He notes that how we love our spouse will matter greatly when we stand before God.  He argues that seeds of love, patience, self-sacrifice, and any number of things grow, maybe unnoticed until we die.  Then, God will ask us how we loved our spouse.  He will show us the produce of those things.  But the opposite is true, if we daily plant bitterness, anger, resentment, selfish idols, need and greed, and many other things of the flesh, then once we meet God we will see that too.  Hmmm.  Thought provoking.

So you see, I’m a newly married woman and God is allowing this season of not being where either of us want to be, as well as new time challenges which hinder my carefully built habits of Bible study and capability of even making a meal on time, to show me the junk in my heart.  He is inviting me on a journey into a place that seems for the moment unseen.

You might not be a newly married woman.  Maybe you’ve been married 5, 15, 27, or 45 years.  Praise God!  You might be a single woman still.  Praise God! You might be a widowed woman, missing marriage or enjoying a newfound freedom to pursue God’s kingdom in new ways.  Praise God!  You might be a woman in the throes of cancer or another disease that leaves you without strength.  Praise God! In each season, dear friend, you and I are simply taking another step, another leap, or another glance into the journey to eternity.  The journey to heaven.  Oh press on sister in Christ!  Look down that railroad track of life.  Note the unendingness, the bleakness, the unknown.  And then start, step by step, day by day.  Place one foot in front of the other.  Ask God to show you His ways that you might walk in them.  And as you do, step by step, you and I will reach heaven.  It’s guaranteed!  And when that railroad takes you around unexpected turns into open valleys of delight, please enjoy all that is offered!  Weary walking and unending unknowns are only part of the journey! The other part is great delight!  And oh, I forgot to mention one thing.  There is a friend who actually is able to walk every single step with you.  His name is Jesus.  He alone is able to be your companion every step of the way!

Let’s go dear sister, please do walk with me awhile! And when your track splits off and you are forced to go a different path, remember Jesus.  He is with you!

I Am Not Who I Was!

The other day I was driving.  I decided to turn on a favorite local radio program.  I knew the program was mid-way, but I thought I’d try it anyway.  I flipped the dial and the first thing I heard was the host saying what she often has people do at conferences:  she invites them to place their hand over their heart and repeat after her I am not what I was — I am not what I do — I am someone He enjoys.  She then stated that she thought her listeners that day should do it too.  I kid you not she said, “even if you’re driving you can do this.  One hand on the wheel, one on your heart.”  So I placed my hand over my heart and whispered those words.  She invited us to repeat it.  So I did, louder.

It brought back a memory from earlier this year.  I was up in northern Minnesota, unable to attend my local church on Easter morning.  I chose to be away from church, and chose to be with my family, and away from a morning service.  I was wanting something for a Sunday service, especially it being Easter.  So I pulled up a podcast I’d been hoping to listen to for some time.  The podcast was about being loved.  It had nothing to do with Easter, yet everything to do with Easter all at the same time as she shared the gospel prose style by combining verses from all over the Bible.  I cried, it was so beautiful!

Yet in the car the other day, another sentence of that podcast came floating to my memory.  The speaker had stated, “You are more sinfully flawed than you’d ever dare to believe.  And you are more loved and accepted than you could ever dare to hope.”  She repeated this, letting it sink in lower and lower from the brain to the heart.  She repeated it again, letting it wash her audience to their toes.

So the other day while driving it came back.  As I listened to the words I am not what I was; I am not what I do, I heard in my brain, I am more sinfully flawed than I could even believe.  The words lodged themselves in.  Past sorrows and sins came to mind.  Things I regret, wish I’d never done.  But that is not who I am now, my brain argued back, for I am more loved and accepted than I could hope.  I am someone He enjoys!

Today I wrapped up my study of late: 1-2 Samuel.  The author asked us to read portions of 1 Chronicles throughout this study as well, as it parallels 1-2 Samuel and adds details to David’s reign.  So today’s lesson focused on 1 Chronicles 29. 1 Chronicles 29:26-30 states,

Now David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. The period which he reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned in Hebron seven years and in Jerusalem thirty-three years. Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor; and his son Solomon reigned in his place.  Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer, in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet and in the chronicles of Gad the seer, with all his reign, his power, and the circumstances which came on him, on Israel, and on all the kingdoms of the lands.

The author questions, “How was David’s reign summarized?  Was he remembered for his sin? How would you like to be remembered?  Is it possible to be remembered well if you have fallen into sin?”

Hmm.  I pondered all  this.  We are told that David is a man after God’s own heart.  We know it is true.  However, we as humans seem more apt to say those words but actually label David an adulterous man.  This is true too.  And we dwell on David’s faults.  But God, in great grace, specified that David was a man after His heart, and a king who died at a ripe old age full of riches and honor.  God loved David and forgave his sins, and continued to use David, and gave him riches and honor!

Well my sisters, we are truly flawed.  We all have a past as a sinner prior to recognizing our need for Christ.  Even after receiving Christ we might stumble still.  But we are not what we were.  We are not what we’ve done.  We are someone loved and enjoyed by God!  Oh, place your hands over your hearts, shout these words outloud: I am someone He enjoys!  I am more loved and accepted than I could ever dare to hope! 

Like David, we’ve all sinned greatly before a Holy God.  But also, like David, we can be women after God’s heart. People may label us by our past and sins.  But not God!  God the Son shed His own blood for you and me!  How wonderful!  We are not what we were!  Press on sisters for, Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy,  to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  (Jude 24-25)

My Name Is Grumpy

When a dog’s sparkle is gone, everyone knows it.  The wag isn’t there.  The bounding energy is replaced with uncharacteristic melancholy.  Thankfully most dogs get this way only when they are in pain, or in trouble, or no person is interacting with them.  They don’t tend to get grumpy (I don’t think!).

Unfortunately, we as humans lose our sparkle too.  We have bad moments, bad days, bad attitudes.  The other day my husband had every right to rename me Grumpy for the evening.  My wag and sparkle rivaled a dog heading to the vet. I tried to be enthusiastic but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I arrived home from work in a semi-good attitude.  But that attitude steadily and rapidly deteriorated in the 30 minutes it took me to ready for bed.

My husband knows me so well.  So he asked me if I was in a poor mood.  Yes, I agreed.  Why?  Hmm.  That one always gives me pause.  Why, he asks.  I’m not always sure.  Sometimes I am sure, just stubborn and want to hold onto my anger, so voicing a reason is easy.  But the other night I knew I had no right to be in a bad mood, so why was I?  It was a good question.  Often my husband’s next question, which I love because it draws me out and opens a door of conversation (and demonstrates his heart), is have I done something?  I had to say no to that as well.  Literally nothing.  So I told my husband that I had minor irritations.  Truth.  But not very helpful to a curious husband who wants to make things right or help me out.

So grumpy, wagless me snuggled into my pillow and tried to figure out my heart.  Hmm.  Well, for starters the guy I work with didn’t feel well and I responded poorly to him — irritated, yelled a little at him.  Then, my husband and I had chatted earlier in the evening and I felt he might be disappointed in me or wishing I was someone I am not. (And he never said that, still doesn’t, I was just perceiving that).  Lastly, I needed a shower but was tired and didn’t want to go through the effort of taking one, just wanted to hop into bed.  But my husband reminded me we had company coming the following day and that our bathroom rug gets wet, thus making it not as nice for people.  Selfish grumpy me didn’t feel like caring at the moment, but I begrudgingly took my shower. (And ok, it did feel good.  I admit it.  And the next day the rug was completely dry for company.)

Grumpy.  Complain-y.  That was me.  Joylessness flowed out of me as obviously as a sad dog who gets sent to the corner.  Only I deserved to be sent to the corner.  You see, I had just finished reading Jonah.  Secretly I like Jonah, because sometimes I am Jonah.

Jonah is not noted for immediately obeying the voice of God.  Rather he knows God’s forgiving and compassionate nature.  So he hightails it the other way.  He falls asleep on a ship.  The ship gets tossed and turned by the angry waves, and Jonah holds onto his joyless, grumpy attitude.  The other people on the ship (not believers in God for they pray to their ‘gods’), are terrified.  Jonah freely admits that God must be allowing the storm because of him, and states that the only way to stop the turmoil is to toss him overboard.  Finally they  do, and the waves die down, and God sends a fish to swallow Jonah.  I’m guessing Jonah was still grumpy.  Holding onto his anger.  I probably would be if circumstances kept getting worse and worse for me.

So then God gets Jonah where Jonah was supposed to go in the first place.  Jonah got a first class ride in the belly of a great fish, the only passenger with all the leg room he wanted!  Then Jonah got vomited out onto the land.  Yuck!  Maybe the first thing Jonah did was bathe in the sea to get the stench and slime off of him.  Then he finally (and grudgingly) set off to warn Ninevah of God’s wrath and upcoming judgment. He told them, and they repented completely, and God relented from His fierce anger.

Jonah went outside the city to sulk.  Perhaps he felt slighted.  He had been warning of impending judgement, but God relented.  Did Jonah feel put off that “he looked bad” by what he said not actually coming true?  I’m not sure, but I do know he was still in a bad mood as he sat to sulk.  He actually wanted to die!  God provided a little plant as shade for him, and then God sent a worm to devour the little plant that Jonah sat under.  Jonah sulked and complained and God asked if he had right to sulk!

The book ends that way!  Jonah doesn’t repent of disobedience or a bad attitude throughout the whole book!  In my grumpiness the other day I wrote in my journal:  I know I should be grateful, joyful, content.  But I’m just not.  I know I should be fine, in a better mood, but I’m not.  I know what God’s Word says about rejoicing, about thoughts in my heart, about gratitude.  I’m just grumpy.

My husband suggested we not talk about one of the triggers that was irritating me.  He suggested we go to sleep and deal with it in the morning.  I woke up much happier, rested, and not irritated.  What changed.  Nothing.  God’s grace gave me a second chance to change my attitude.  The next day was great all around.

How often I choose grumpiness, joylessness, sad-puppy-woe-is-me attitudes over grace, patience, forgiveness, joy, selflessness, or life according to God’s kingdom rules.  I choose to be Jonah.  In the movie Anne of Green Gables, the red-headed, dramatic, romance and sweet- times loving Anne comments on it being “such a Jonah day.”  I’ve been there.  But usually my Jonah days are my days of running to everything but God to make me happy.

Dear precious women: Please run into the waiting arms of God rather than away from Him!  Tell Him all about your grumpiness.  Ask Him to give you your spark back!  I have joy again (thankfully), but far too often I side with Jonah and run away.  I sulk in my attitude.  I think I know better than God.  I let self rule.  Myself never rules well.  Only Christ Jesus can rule my life in absolute perfectness.  And I’m learning (slowly) that sometimes it’s the little irritants that best show us how far we are from being who we want to be. They are teachers in a way.  I think big crisis’ – check, run to God! Little daily irritants… well, if I’m honest I run the other way and sulk far faster than I’d like to admit.  I tell myself I’m not disobeying God like Jonah did.  God gently whispers back to my heart, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is My will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I swallow.  Ok.  I am being Grumpy Jonah.  God please help me!

 

Reflections

This last month I’ve decided to revisit my copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  If you are in need of spiritual food, thought provoking readings, or simply a new devotional, it is an excellent and classic devotional.  I must warn you though, you will read some days, and leave thinking, now what was that that I just read?  Seriously, some days I read my daily reading, and my brow wrinkles, and I re-read some, if not all, of that day’s thought.  I re-wrinkle my brow and say, “What God? I don’t get it!”

But tucked into the deep conscience of trying to understand, there are nuggets of gold that stick out like an early spring flower among still brown winter grass.  These thoughts are beautiful, mind blowing, and worth meditating on.  They are like refreshing streams into my brain, streams that bring rest rather than feeling like I’m not smart enough to grasp Chamber’s depth of wisdom.

And of these precious tidbits, I’d like to share some with you.  These aren’t my words, they are those of Oswald Chambers. Chambers lived from 1874 to 1917.  According to the bio I read, he was not famous while he lived, though a small group of people “appreciated him as a teacher of rare insight and expression.”  I must admit that I’d never read any of his work, for I was uninterested.  I knew his devotional, actually compiled by his wife after his death, was a classic.  But I didn’t want to read it.  I wanted “modern” devotionals and studies.  But in 2010 this classic devotional was thrust into my hands as a gift.  And then it sat on the shelf for a couple of years until I was in need of a study, and didn’t have the time to put into anything much more than a devotional.  So I picked it up and either devoured it or trudged through it, depending on the day. Now on my second time through, I’m underlining even more and reflecting afresh on Chamber’s depth which shows insight into his intimacy with Christ.  May these words wash over your soul today, and may the God of all grace call you even deeper into intimacy with Him!

I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone.

If we have never had the experience of taking our commonplace religious shoes off our commonplace religious feet, and getting rid of all the undue familiarity with which we approach God, it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence.

Worship is giving God the best that He has given you.

Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ.  The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.

How much kindness have I shown to Him this past week?  Have I been kind to His reputation in my life?

The golden rule for your life and mine is this concentrated keeping of the life open towards God.  Let everything else — work, clothes, food, everything on earth — go by the board, saving that one thing.  The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God.

One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.

The real test of the saint is not preaching the gospel, but washing disciples’ feet, that is doing the things that do not count in the actual estimate of men but count everything in the estimate of  God.

Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transfigured by the indwelling life of the Son of God? God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be manifested in my mortal flesh.