Friday, January 30, 2009

Exercise, Faith, Growth and Knitting?

I knit.
And when I say I knit what I mean is, I do the "knit stitch". I do not purl, increase, decrease, knit into the back of, double knit etc.

I know one stitch and that's how I qualify myself as a "knitter."
Consequently I make a lot of scarves...

Sadly there are many who have accepted Christ as Savior and are now Christians but have not developed a relationship with God.
Consequently they do a lot of worrying...

I tried a couple times to learn some other techniques. I found these beautiful patterns, these amazing things I could make if only I would only go a little farther in my knitting experience but I didn't. I didn't because it was too difficult. I didn't have the time, or enough interest or some other lame excuse so now my creative possibilities are limited.

The Bible says that we are to desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow thereby - to partake when the Bible says "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) and by doing so to grow stronger in our faith, and in our knowledge and our understanding. But there is also the lament that this people are not ready for "meat" because they have not matured in their faith, they have not exercised what knowledge and what faith they already had so they are still like spiritual babies. (Hebrews 5:12 -14)

I'm thinking that the word "exercise" here means the same as in any other context...using those muscles and breaking a sweat. Growth involves effort. Use and practice is necessary to obtain higher skill levels in any sport.
Why would we think that our faith will grow just because we possess it?

Scarves are good but there's a whole other world of yarn crafts out there.
The security of a home in heaven is fantastic, but the benefit of a developing dynamic relationship with the God of the universe...that is beyond description.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

God, where are you?!

I think that if you haven't asked this question already it is inevitable that you will.

It's the question you ask -
when you realize your life is not at all as you imagined it should be.
when all you have are questions and no viable options
when suddenly you've been dealt a tragedy.
when evil wins and good is dismissed.
when no matter what you do, it's not better.
when you step out in faith and fall flat on your face.
when you've lived your life as a good and faithful servant and something goes terribly wrong.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:45)

I go east, but he is not there.
I go west, but I cannot find him.
I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden.
I look to the south, but he is concealed. (Job 23:8,9)

I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.
I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.
You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!

I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?

Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
(Psalm 77: 1-9)

Do these phrases feel familiar?

Where is God?

The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
his ears are open to their cries for help. (Psalm 34:15)

But I'm not getting any answers; things aren't getting better.

But He knows where I am going. (Job 23:10)

I can't deal with this alone.

I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. (Hebrews 13:5)

I just don't see why this has happened or how it will resolve.

And I am sure that God who began this good work in you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again. (Philippians 1:6)

Here it is we find ourselves like David in Psalm 77.
He recalled the great things that God had done in his life and the history of his people; how that when the Israelites had the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh's army behind them (talk about being between a rock and a hard place) that
"Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters- a pathway no one knew was there!" (vs.10)
He sought to remember that God is great and bigger than any and every thing.

And here quite simply we have to answer this question, in this way.
What is faith?

It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen and the conviction of its reality.
(Heb. 11:1)

God is.
God is attentive.
God is aware.
God is in control
God has not abandoned you.
God is guiding you.


Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left.
(Isaiah 30:20.21)

God is with you.
(Joshua 1:9)

You keep track of all my sorrows
You have collected all my tears in your bottle
You have recorded each one in your book...
This I know that
God is for me.
(Psalms 56:8,9)


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cell Phones and other Pacifiers

I sing in a community choir that is based at a local university, in other words, most of the choristers are college kids and it's fascinating! At every and any opportunity a good percentage of them are texting. Behind their choir music, down low behind the seat in front of them, or when there's work in another part their thumbs are flying - and I mean flying!

It reminded me of a pacifier, that comfort item, or the default action in times of restlessness or stress.

What is your pacifier?
What do you do when you don't want to do what you should be?
What engages you when you're restless and just looking for anything?

My guess is, that to some extent, we all have one.
Which is so funny given that one of the comforting mantras of child rearing is "Don't worry, they still won't be "xyz" by the time they get to kindergarten".

Who knew pacifiers would remain?

Is this a bad thing?
I don't know, I guess it would depend on what your pacifier is, how often you revert to it and what the effect is on you and those around you.

It's just what I'm thinking about...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hope in a Grocery Cart

I was just running in for juice boxes...

(Yep, you know the rest of the story!)

And I came out with a cart full!
(Don't even pretend you don't do the same thing all the time too...)

As I was loading my groceries into the car I was struck by how diverse they were and what they represent:

A big box of strawberries
- not too ridiculously priced and such a welcome treat in the middle of winter!

Individual bottles of juice instead of more drink pouches
- in hopes that we can all drink a little less sugar

Snacks
- The Superbowl is around the corner and I need to be ready for the "big party" (even though it's just us)

Cardstock and glue
- Valentine's Day projects are coming and I need to be prepared so my kids can have what they need.

Individually wrapped Muffins
- the stockpile of pastries in my Sunday School room is down to one package


Some new clothes
- because they're on winter clearance even though they're basic wardrobe pieces
(you've got to love that!)


A new exercise DVD
- hopefully I've found something to get me moving so the next time I buy clothes...
(in spite of the snacks and muffins!)


Clorox wipes in decorative containers
- Anything that makes housework easier and more "fun" is in my cart!


What a list!
In one cart were provisions for crafts, entertainment, health, personal enrichment, and household management and all this in less than an hour of shopping.

To you who run a household; it's amazing what you do and how something as simple as a trip to the store can reflect all the hopes you hold for your family.

(even if you get home and realize you forgot to get milk!!)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Buddy Wrap"

I have a friend with a broken toe and my first question was "Did you buddy wrap it?"
Buddy wrap - buddy taping - it's the procedure of taping the injured digit to one next to it that is not damaged and therefore giving it support and protection.

How good it is to have someone to buddy wrap yourself to when you are injured. There is nothing like having a friend who is strong when you are weak and whole when you feel fragmented. I find, in times like this, that the buddy tape that binds me to someone stronger can be made of email or phone calls or, most deliciously, with lattes at Starbucks.

These are the times when you talk more than listen, ask more questions than have answers and see the glass not anywhere near half full. Here a buddy is solid, listening, asking more questions to better understand, providing solutions and/or just a shoulder, offering perspective and hope. There's nothing like it. This is an old idea stated by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4, "Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up."

Greater still than that is the ability to buddy wrap with He who "sticks closer than a brother". (Proverbs 18:24)

To know that at any and every time and place that you are connected to the One who made your heart and therefore understands every thing that touches it; God who is a refuge, a comfort, a shield, a place of shelter in times of need.

He never faints, never gets weary, never is weak and never stops lavishing you with unconditional love.

Psalms 139 says "You (God) beset me behind and before, You lay your hand of blessing upon me." The Hebrew word for "beset" means "to bind, to secure".

Hmm, sounds like buddy wrapping to me...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tools

"And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up." (Deuteronomy 6:9)

You have to love tools because they make a job easier. I've found a new tool in a book I recently received called The Gift of Psalms. This book is a compilation of 50 psalms with a corresponding devotional. The devotionals are short and speak to the heart, when you have time to sit and read but the real beauty of this book is the three CD's that come with it. The psalms and the devotionals are read by various celebrities and are accompanied by beautiful music. This is the type of CD you can put on in the house while you're working or would be great for times of commuting.

It's a way of keeping God's Word in front of your eyes, or in this case your ears, and God does promise that His Word will always accomplish what He's set out for it to do...who's not to say that it may not be able to speak to us in the midst of all our busyness?

Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not possible

My son asked me what my favorite video game was when I was a child.
Umm, Pong?

He's never known a world without video games and computers and ipods and cell phones. Who would have thought ten years ago that you could carry your entire music library in your pocket? Or who would have imagined that you could take a video with your phone and in seconds send it to someone thousands of miles away? I mean seriously!

Our world is vastly different than a decade ago. Just because we haven't seen it yet does not mean it's not possible. There are advances all the time that just boggle the mind.

And if we, as mere mortals can do this, what does this say about the possibilities of what God can do?

Deuteronomy 8: 3 says "He fed you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever seen. "

We take manna for granted - I mean this is an Old Testament story; we know all about the bread that came from heaven every morning for the wandering Israelites for forty years.

But there was still that first morning - when they opened their tent flaps and saw the ground covered with food - can you imagine? They were seeing something no one had ever seen before; not in their entire lifetime or in the experience of their parents or grandparents or great grandparents had there ever been this type of provision.
It was unheard of.
It was unimaginable,
but it was there!

Scripture also says
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)

Just because you or anyone you have known has never seen such a solution to your situation, such a answer to your prayer, or the moving of God in such an unbelievable way, doesn't mean it's not possible.

God is the Creator. He "makes all things new"(Rev. 21:5).
So why do we imagine that He's out of ideas when it comes to the things that trouble us?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The "magic" of a fervent relationship


I am easily amused...
entertained...
engaged...
distracted... (what was I saying? I got lost there in the synonyms...)

Oh yes. Easily engaged.
Currently I am fascinated by something called a magic mug.

It looks like a regular black coffee mug
until
you
pour
in
hot
liquid

and then, suddenly, pictures appear all over the mug. So much fun!

But then...as the liquid cools, the pictures fade until they disappear...so sad.

I am a vessel.
When I am filled with a passionate love for my Savior, His image is apparent to the world.

When I let the concerns and circumstances of this life cool my fervor, His image is no longer as apparent.
Only the vessel remains visible with its blank surface...

No one can stir up the embers of my heart but me.
Only time with Him will cause my heart to burn for Him.

Only when I am in fervent relationship with Him will His image be clearly visible, not because of my service, or my effort, but simply because that is the way He has made us.

We are "magic mugs".
What are you filled with?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Great Inevitable Conclusion

You will come to this conclusion.
It is inevitable and only a matter of time.

There are only two questions.
How long will it take you to realize this?
What are the consequences of waiting too long?

It is clearly stated in Scripture, At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:11)

Someday you will conclude that Jesus is Lord.

The word Lord means:
the supreme ruler
he to whom a person or thing belongs and about which he has power of deciding
master
owner
the one who has control.

Someday every single person will reach that conclusion. From the vilest despot to the world's sweetest "little old lady" and even to you, all will bow and make this confession.

We will all confess that He is Lord-
and if He is Lord, than we are not...

But we want to be.
We act like we are - in control, in charge, the supreme ruler of our own lives. We feel that things often happen because we made them to, we worked hard for the recognition, position and power. We are lord.

"Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

So will that be your confession now or later?

To acknowledge Christ's lordship now is to come to the realization that not only is He in charge and in control but that He is also the one responsible to take care of you. You will journey through this life with peace (Isaiah 26:3,4) because ultimately it's all up to the Master and He is the One deals with what troubles you.

Or will you wait for later?
Because you have a better idea of how to run your life?
If you've been around the block, even only once, you already know that there are some decisions you've made in your running your life that in hindsight you realize were terrible. To wait until later is to struggle through this world alone, to feel in your spirit that "if it must be, it's up to me!" and that is wearisome.

Someday you will realize that the earth is the Lord's and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him. Psalms 24:1. You will make that confession. And this verse is not merely for those who are unbelievers; it applies to us who claim the name of Christ.

You may know Jesus as your Savior but do you acknowledge that He is Lord?
Of your life?
Of your decisions?
Of your actions?
Of your thoughts?
Of your future?

Someday you will confess that Jesus is Lord.
Will that be today?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Timing and Value

That magnificent thing you bought two weeks ago is now up to 90% off. Now you can buy it for just about the tax you paid on it.

Why the sudden decrease in value?

It's all about the timing.

If real estate is location, location, location.
Retail sales are timing.

This happens at the end of every season. Right now the boxes of assorted chocolates wrapped in Christmas paper are 75-90% off and just one aisle over are the same box of chocolates wrapped in Valentine's paper and full price! (Not to say as a shopper that there are not certain advantages to everything going out of season so quickly as conceptually you can restock your Christmas supplies now and pack them away for next year but that's not exactly my point.)

There is a time for things.

Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3 gave us a whole litany about it, a time for laughter, for crying, for work, for play, for war, for peace...you know the passage and you get the idea.

When things are done in the proper time, they are powerful.

Something as simple as putting lights on your house for Christmas is a beautiful thing, yet not so much in April...
Are the lights still as lovely? Sure, but now they've lost beauty and become an oddity because their time was Christmas and it is long passed.

One thing whose value is strongly tied to timing is our words.
As Proverbs 25:11 says "A word fitly (or timely) spoken is like apples of gold in baskets of silver." Not just any word and not just at any time but the right word at the right time.

It's happened to you hasn't it; you think of the perfect response or retort (depending on the nature of the conversation!) about an hour after you're away from the situation?

What about the times when it's in our power to say an encouraging word and we don't and although we can say it later the need for it has passed and the strength one would have derived from it is no longer?

Or what of a word of rebuke or of truth when it is prudent but we don't say what we ought and then the consequences that follow are reflective of our silence? Or perhaps we should have offered a word of witness but let fear keep us from sharing our hope?

We all know someone, if not ourselves, who has lost someone else and regrets not saying "I love you" more often or that one last time. We live as though we and everyone around us will live forever, but we know differently. We need how we speak to be influenced by what we know.

And what we know is that when we have the chance to speak kindness, encouragement, truth, or love we need to do it, and do it then because in an hour, or a day, or a week the value may not even worth the bother.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

But it was only two weeks ago!

...that is was Christmas Day! Just TWO weeks ago!!!

Is it just me or does it feel more like it's been a lot longer than that?

Our tree is still up because after getting used to enjoying the lights in the early morning and evenings it's hard to take it down. But even so it still feels like all the magic and messages of Christmas were like last year...

We move on.
We cross things off the list and move onto the next thing, as we should, but there is a danger that we will forget the things we've learned and the things we need to remember.

The children of Israel had an interesting practice of creating an altar or setting up piles of stones in places in order to remember what God had done for them there. When they crossed the Jordan river they set up a memorial so they would remember and so that it would be a catalyst for conversation with future generations when they'd ask, "What is that pile of rocks all about?".

It's good for us to do the same thing.
In our own way of course!
I have piles of rocks in my house because my kids keep finding them, along with other things, they want to save. Their rock collections do not serve for me the same purpose as the Israelites did...

In what way(s) do you and can you remember the hand of God in your own life?
I was reading a devotional in which was repeated "God is faithful" and a friend commented that she knows that but often seems to not remember it at the time she needs to.

So how do we remember?
How do we get through a difficult time, a conflict, a trial, a chastening, or time of revelation and not forget the lesson we just learned?

Your Christmas decorations are probably packed away but do you remember what God revealed to you of Himself during that season?
How will you remember the things He's teaching you this week?
When the June sun has these January snows a distant memory, will you remember the blessings of the Lord in this season?

It's not too late.
Find a way.
Set up your own stones of remembrance and let their reminder be yet one more way to bring you, with praise, into the presence of God.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Gift of Many Gifts

The gift sat under the tree.
It was beautiful; a gold box wrapped in red ribbon and it was for me.

It was so lovely just sitting there that I hesitated to open it.
There was great joy in both its presentation and the anticipation of what was inside!
But it didn’t take long until I slipped off the bow and removed the golden lid.

I found, to my surprise, that it was filled with more gifts!
The giving was to continue.
My gift box turned out to be really holding many gifts.

The Gift of Christmas is Christ; come as a babe to a manger, on His way to a cross for our redemption.

So, as you’ve accepted the golden box containing your gift of atonement and assurance of heaven, the question is, have you opened it up and discovered all the other gifts in store for you that come from having this personal relationship with Christ?

Peace no matter what the circumstances?

Joy when there’s no cause for happiness?

Love when nothing about you seems deserving of affection?

Assurance that whatever the future holds you do not go there alone?

You’ll find all these gifts and more in this gift of Christ you’ve already received. Gifts that you never come to the end of opening.
Tied up with ribbons and just waiting for you.