Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Ripping Out Stiches

The cold continues--and evenings have been spent working on the latest crochet project. Until. Until I stopped to check my progress and realized it's more and more lopsided. One side is shorter while the other stays the same. And I didn't notice until I was 8 rows in. 8 rows of twin-sized afghan! It didn't happen all at once. It happened row by row. So what to do? Rip, rip, rip. All those stitches, all that time, gone.

The same thing happens in our spiritual lives. We live, strive, work, and push forward. But when we fail to stop and evaluate, or even consider, where we've been, we risk getting off track--and staying off track. The longer we wait to look back and look up, the farther we travel, unaware we've wandered.

That is the power of proper comparison. Not comparing ourselves with others or our finite expectations, but comparing ourselves with the template of the Word of God. Am I on course? How has God been using circumstances to reveal His character and Word? What has He been teaching me? If I don't know--or if there's no real answer--it's time to stop, take a backward glance, and, perhaps, rip out a few stitches of incorrect thinking, motives, plans, hopes, even dreams.

The difficulties of life are intended to reveal our hearts. What do I really want? What was I hoping for? What means the most to me?

And when those tainted, brief, lesser things are burned away--when God says "No"--I am left with the truth: Jesus must be all the world to me. In my heart, there are many times that He's not. I struggle to keep Him there. I know He should be. And as I rip stitches, as I grieve lost time and opportunities, God reminds me of His faithfulness. When I am faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself,  Christ in me, the hope of glory. So I press on. I start again, checking the pattern more closely; following the directions more carefully; taking heed to myself and my choices. And trusting God to bring the increase.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

When Life Stops

We've been socked in with snow and freezing rain for a couple of days now--AFTER a 3-day holiday weekend. It's a small picture of what I've been wrestling with this month: stuck with no direction.
As a wife and mom, life has been full of change. I was married young and there was always a path forward: college graduation, teaching, raising children. I'm near the end of that trail and struggling with not knowing what's next. The last few years included additional classes and a published book. And now, here I sit. In the snow. With quiet. And no clear path in the "what's next in my life?" scenario.... And I realize how spoiled I really am.

God and I have done some talking, "What next, God? Where do I go from here?"

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might," Ecclesiastes 9:10. In other words, do what I've given you to do.

Laundry, meals, and dishes? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Youth ministry, counseling, prayer, meeting other's needs? Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Home improvement, companionship, support for husband and family? For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

Volunteer work in the community and schools? I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22)

And as I run through the list of what I've been given, I find I'm not fighting the fact that "there's nothing to do," like a bored child--although I feel that way sometimes--instead, I'm fighting a desire for importance and identity. Having added time with little direction, fewer boundaries and no clear end point brings an awareness of what I've enjoyed for so long: being out and about, seen, known, appreciated; getting to know new people and places, anticipating adventure. The opportunities that lie ahead are points into a nebulous future. I'm not satisfied. I want a line. Now. But God is drawing me back to the foundational truths of my identity in Christ; of the need to choose humility and lowliness and acknowledge Jesus as my only Source of importance. And it's good.

Although it's not the hardest thing I've ever done, it's a bit of a desert. My prayer is that I, like Caleb and Joshua, will move forward in faith, grateful for manna, content with today's routine, seeking to please the Lord in the small things, waiting patiently, fighting the inner man who desires sloth, gluttony and makes excuses for both--even if it's 40 years--because I am confident that God's got this. And, as you've been saying since paragraph one, but were too polite to blurt, "It's not about you." You're right.  And that's where this has taken me. Stop. Look. Listen. Live.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:5-11)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Insights for a New Year from Candy Crush

A few weeks ago blogs and posts were flying about New Year resolutions--do you, don't you, will you won't you? Some promoted health and self-improvement; some prompted godliness and character. It's good and wise to evaluate our lives. That was part of Jesus' instruction to Paul regarding the Lord's Supper. We need to stop, reflect, and examine our hearts regularly.

Candy Crush. That's not the most graceful segue way, but it might get your attention. With the idea of New Year resolutions swirling, my daily routine includes a few rounds of Candy Crush. It fills short, undetermined moments of waiting and can be picked up or left behind. In a world where laundry is never done, meals are consumed, and dishes run in cycles, it's rewarding to have a small corner of life that keeps moving forward.

Image result for candy crush

So what does that have to do with the New Year? I often log in to a game and make mindless matches, just to pass the time. Failure after failure, life after life, and I'm done. Game over. The next time I remind myself to look at the goal, posted in the upper corner. "Oh!" I mutter. I had no idea.

And that's the point of this post. We can mindlessly set resolutions, seek to improve our lives and responses, but if we never stop to compare our decisions and movement with the goal, we are no better off than before.

Jesus is the Source, the Means, the Goal.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:7-14)

PS--As a result, this author has placed Scripture memory verses in more strategic places as a result. Knowing Christ changes our goals, outlook, decisions, mindset...our very lives!