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!

Monday, January 7, 2019

True Love

Because of the holidays, our regular routine has radically changed. We've stayed up later, slept in longer, eaten too much, and missed mid-week church meetings. When we're only at church once a week, we feel like we're missing something. We miss people.

So now that we're back in the swing of things, I recounted post holiday conversations that happened following this morning's worship service and prayed for many different people: an older, single woman who is "getting by;" a young mother recovery from a long, misdiagnosed illness; a couple enduring chemo; a family anticipating the immigration of their son; a newly disclosed abuse situation of friends; young athletes gearing up for surgery, while others recover. So. many. friends. So. many. opportunities to pray and intercede for one another.
And as I thought of these dear friends and church family members, I realized how loving our local church body is. We can't truly love one another without listening and asking questions. If all I did was shoot off my mouth, tell my news, and listen to my own voice, I would miss so much! True love is listening. Listening is caring. Caring is praying. Praying leads to follow up, praising, helping, doing, calling, texting, encouraging. And it's happening throughout our church body. People intercede for one another, reach out for help, provide care, fellowship, encouragement, transportation and practical intervention.

As John, the disciple Jesus loved, said "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth" (1 John 3:18). John knew because John experienced Jesus' love firsthand. He understood that we do not naturally love or care for one another. Left to ourselves, we use information to wield power in the form of gossip or manipulation. But because of Jesus, we can listen and love freely. It's not up to me to fix other's difficulty. True love doesn't to get the "dirt" from other's lives or use a willingness to listen as a trip to share my own experience. We can only love sincerely, openly, and without strings attached because that's the way God loves us. He doesn't love us for what He can get. He doesn't love us for His benefit. He loves us for our benefit. He loves for what He can give and provide. He loves by giving His best when we are at our worst. And, because of Jesus, we can love others.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-21)