Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WHO HOLDS ME WHEN I STUMBLE?

Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have strengthened the feeble knees.  Job 4:4
I certainly have not endured the pain and sorrow Job did, let alone what Jesus went through.  However, every stumbl or fall along my life's path gets me to feeling I'm inadequate and not strong enough to recover or survive.  One thing I do well, though, is to uphold God's holy word in my times of heavy storm.  I refuse to falter in my walk towards his light and comfort.  I have 2 choices.  I can curl up in the fetal position and wallow in my self pity of darkness and despair.  My other choice is to keep going.  Job was strong throughout his every storm and praised God for all he had given Job.  Job understood that God gave gifts to Job, and he had the authority to allow Satan to take away those gifts.  Sometimes as parents we have to let our children fall in order to learn a lesson.  Well...God has been teaching me quite a few lessons these past 6 months.  I am learning what it means to be real.  I'm working each day to recognize and appreciate the unique person God created me to be.  I'm learning to see myself through God's eyes.  Just a few years ago, these storms would have had me curling up in the corner hoping to die.  Now?  I praise God for every day, pleasure or turmoil, and I accept the life he is leading me to.  I look toward him daily, in every moment, and am grateful for the gifts he is bestowing on my daily.  I may stumble and my knees may be feeble, but with God by my side, I can overcome these set backs and rise above it all in the days to come.

Lord, I thank you for the storms you've allowed to pass through my life and the lessons I continue to learn through your word.  I ask you, Jesus, to continue to bring me strength for the narrow walk ahead of me, wisdom to make positive changes in my life, and patience to endure the suffering.  Amen

Monday, May 21, 2012

CHALLENGES

Each day I face many challenges. I don't want to consider these endless opportunities to worry, stress out, feel regret or heartache. I wish I could easily see the overflowing blessings in my life. I struggle to do so just as much as the normal person does. I'm not prone to depression but I do feel anxiety at times when things are out of my control and in the hands of people I no longer trust. I challenge myself daily to change my perspective for just a moment of reflection so joy can push away the pain and usher me closer to the loving arms of God. For he knows the plan he has for my life and he does not wish any harm to come to me. His gift of grace and mercy is a daily gift, available to me constantly, every morning and each night, present in every moment of my life. I don't deserve it but God gives it to me anyway. I want to spend the next 365 days counting my blessings. I know most people start at the beginning of each year, but this is a cornerstone for me. I've made it 6 months without my husband at my side. I didn't thinkI could make it 1 day. I will make it the rest of my life as long as I look ahead and don't dwell on past mistakes, pain and heartache. I need to remember to laugh out loud at the absurdities in life and allow my moments of pain to transform into memories of pleasure. Each pain I experience will bring me closer to the pleasure God has planned for my future. I'm almost 50 so I'm no spring chicken, but I will endeavor to hope that upon my last breath I will have lived a happy life. I have no regrets in marrying the man I married. It just wasn't meant to last forever. I thank God for my new life's beginning. I hope my stories from this point on be filled with wisdom, forgiveness, mercy, hope and humor. Every day is a gift, directly from God. I don't want to waste his time any longer.

NOT HOW BUT WHO

Many things in my life are going well, some not so great. There are a few areas in which hopelessness tries to creep in. I need to constantly remind myself that God will deliver me. His spirit is unmistakable. I often ask how God will deliver me. But how is a riduculous notion for God. He is the Great I Am. All God asks of me is to receive his promise. Nothing more. He doesn't ask me to say a set of routine prayers, or to make a sacrifice or even to go to church. God just asks me to trust him. He doesn't offer just a quick fix that may again fray or break. He is offering me a whole new way to live. I may not have the stamina for the journey and more pain may lie ahead of me. Even so, the choice to follow God is painfully clear. I can continue to struggle all alone, pushing myself through one more day, or I can take God at his word and let go. I look at my circumstances with despair at times. I wonder if and when God can deliver me. When will he change my circumstances? He can deliver me into a place of peace, grace and mercy because it is my birthright as a child of God. How? What a riduculous notion for God!

ECSTATIC

Don't I wish I could always feel this way. It's all about my attitude. I love Mondays so today I have a pretty good attitude. How can I be ecstatic when I've a long to do list? I do have things in my life I'm looking forward to, but ecstatic? Maybe I'll just play some music while doing some chores and feel content. I've always felt happiness is being content with your life. As for the divine intoxication? I do love my wine. I don't think that's what Henry Miller was speaking of. I have been forcing myself to have a zest for life that was missing, but I think "ecstatic" is too strong a word. It implies nothing goes wrong or you cloud your feelings or thoughts that are negative and don't actually deal with them. I don't welcome pain, but I don't ignore it. I don't intoxicate myself in a neglectful way. I face my fears and my pain and I attempt to work through to sunnier days. While I like this quote, and it reminds me to live positively, I guess I have a more realistic view of life.

http://pinterest.com/pin/250723904225399352/

DAILY CLOSENESS TO GOD

I remember the days of hiking in the mountains; first as a child with my parents and siblings then as an adult with my husband and children. I miss our cabin. My ex is keeping it in the divorce. That's okay, I'm keeping the house. I miss having a "place" to escape from this rocky world. I loved the scent of the forest and the serenity. Every summer I would leave my children and husband behind for a week of solitude at our little cabin in the mountains. I would take my bible studies, books, art supplies, my case of cd's and plenty of food to last a week so I would have no need to to run for rations 40 minutes away. When I got there I would forget my troubles and shake off the dust from my daily existence. I would get closer to God during my hikes and my quiet times. I would cook and work on art projects. I would dance like no one was watching. I would sit on my front porch in a rocking chair and gaze upon the valley in front of me. I would look upon God's creation. I would sleep under the stars.

Then I would return home to the valley of my life; a pile of dishes, weeds that hadn't been pulled, laundry still wet in the washer, dust creating a extra layer on the furniture, shoes and socks strew in every room. I would realize that my time away was just that, time away from the daily-ness of my life.
Time away might have allowed me to rest and find peace in my days for a week, but the breath stopping truth is that I'm called to live most of my life in the daily-ness of it, not just during my time away. I should be excited about living in my daily-ness, not just my mountain days. I might find respite in the mountains but I should also remember to find joy and glory in every moment of every day. While my mountains days made me feel like I was on top of the trees, in this daily-ness of my life is where I can sit in their shade and eat of their fruit. In the mountains the rainstorms were magnificent, each droplet giving life to God's green earth. Here in my daily-ness the rain pools into puddles I can splash in. In the mountains of my solitude I found exhilaration in my aloneness, in my valley I find the comfort of my family. The mountains can be distant, treacherous and full of obstacles, but my daily-ness is abundant.

I give thanks to my God. "Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth". Psalm 8:9

Thank you Lord for your daily majesty, for watching over my daily-ness and for giving blessings so abundant I cannot begin to count them. I pray that you will help me to continue to see the blessings in my daily life. Allow me to see your daily glory in every moment of my day. Allow my montains to become bumps. Help me to discern what you want me to learn during my valley days. Teach me to share what I've learned. Guide me towards the path you want me to walk. Keep me from feeling lost and frustrated in my daily-ness and allow me to see your comforting hand on my shoulder at every moment. Lord, I ask that you diminish my sorrows and lessen my heartache. Bring me to a place of comfort and rest. Allow me to be content with my new life.

GOD'S COMFORT AND SECURITY

"Oh God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water". Psalm 63:1
 
I think we all have a craving for comfort and security. Perhaps I more than the norm, at this time in my life. I would love to be “beamed up” to a time of greater innocence and away from this world of military threats and lack of respect. I think my desire for security began with Adam and Eve. For only a brief history in time was this world consumed by love and without fear for anything. Then, they had to eat that darn apple.
 
I don’t remember being fearful as a child. My parents were divorced but my mother took good care of us. I never considered how food made it to the table or where the funds came from for me to purchase a prom dress. My mother gave me the comfort and security I needed and I wasn’t even aware of it. I never found the need to find comfort outside my home. I wasn’t a completely obedient teenager, but I turn to drugs or sex for comfort. I thank my mother for keeping me reigned in just tight enough that I didn’t stray, though at the time I thought she was mean and controlling.
 
I would love to retreat back into the simple pleasure of being a teenager, along with all the difficulties I lived through. What I felt were demanding requirements then, now would bring me comfort.
 
I believe I can find such comfort now. I can feel secure in this life without worry that my security will be yanked from me. God has clearly stated promises in the bible that are intended to produce security in us in spite of our circumstances.
“Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, O Lord, have not forgotten those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10
 
I think comfort is only a prayer away. I endeavor to seek God daily, and some days I accomplish such a monumental feat. Some days, like yesterday, I fall short due to my own faults. Just like comfort food brings a warm feeling to our body, I believe reading the bible and “being” in his word constantly brings comfort to our souls.
 

GOD'S GLORY

There are times when I feel the burden of raising my children as a single mom. How much more must God feel the burden of raising billions of unruly children? There are so many influences in our lives; smut called entertainment, women and children trafficking, obscene language in every sentence spoken, environmental concerns, even household disagreements. I don’t know whether to crawl into a cave or shout from a mountain top. I feel overwhelmed by the angry faces I see in the world. I have been brought to anger by the casual attitude others have towards God’s gift of life. I know God requires me to provide my own elbow grease to reach the lost souls in this world. Just a smidgen of love will often sweeten a bitter relationship. A morsel of mercy can soften the most callous offender. A teaspoon of biblical truth has the power to enlighten those who have been duped by society into thinking they don’t need God.
I don’t want to forget that when God handed humanity the authority to manage his creation he didn’t intend for us to rule the masses with an iron fist. He showed us love and mercy, we must do the same. We won’t change society for good through bullying, showing disapproval or announcing our protest. Instead we can permeate our world with God’s glory by engaging in the culture we find ourselves. Say hello to a stranger, share a meal with a Muslim, clean up a non-believer’s yard, encourage the elderly to share their stories, respect the Jewish religion, provide dinner for a family in need, pray with someone in turmoil, run an errand for a sick friend.
I may lead the way God intended when I begin to love the other messy image-bearers he weaves into my life. The neighbor who drives me crazy? Make them some of G’s famous scones. The friend who ignores me but is in need of help? Make the phone calls to agencies that might be able to help her. My ex who is a lost soul? Pray for him to find his way back to God.
I cannot change the world alone. I cannot change my city alone. I cannot change my neighborhood alone. I cannot change my household alone. I cannot change my attitude alone. But, I can do all things with Christ by my side. I need to learn to share God’s glory with everyone.
*This story was inspired by my friend who has come to love a teenage girl she met through a church retreat. She is a hard person to like, let alone love. My friend has shown her compassion and acceptance and been a shining light in this young girl’s life. I admire my friend and strive to be like her in many ways. The love she pours out to people is amazing. Thanks friend.

CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS

When I became a child of Christ I never knew I'd experience some of what he went through. I know people who do not care for me because of my faith, I have been hurt by those who call God's house their own, I have been betrayed and deeply pained. Forgiving those who have hurt me is a step towards walking in the shoes of Christ. When someone I love hurts me I tend to forgive quickly in order to keep the peace and my life running as smoothly as possible. I don't expect to be hurt by other "Christians". Are we not all walking the same path, that to live a life resembling the life Christ led. Jesus certainly knew his enemies yet he still loved those who hurt him. He knew the miracles and felt the wonder of God and bestowed it upon all people, not just his friends. I'm not sure I have really forgiven people for past hurts, as much as just forgotten about the situation that hurt me. I felt that simply forgiving them was enough. Then one day the hurt memory returns and I realize the pain is deeper than I thought. I feel God impressing on my heart that I truly need to forgive and then actually act out that forgiveness. I am called to help them or do something for them. Some hurts are little and I have long forgotten the act someone committed against me. Some pain is so deep I don't know if I'll ever get over it. I have been trying to forgive and forget but all I've been doing is forgetting.

Now God is calling me to actually forgive like Jesus would. Treat my enemies like the precious children of God they are. A man in my Divorce Care class said "forgiveness is ducking so God can hit them for you". I have to remember that. Tonight in class we talked about how forgiveness is an essential necessity of healing. Though I don’t know if I can truly forgive me ex for the devastation and pain he caused our family, I can try to love him through the eyes of Christ. I don’t wish him harm in any way, but the wound is still too fresh to begin healing is a measurable manner. I know one day I will be able to stand or sit beside him and not feel the emotions of contempt and bitterness. Until that day comes I will continue to pray for him and his lost soul. I will be grateful to God for the freedom of will to slowly travel the road to forgiveness. I know I have to completely forgive him in order for complete healing to happen.

As Jesus loved Judas so I must also love my enemies. Lord, please help me to feel ready to forgive and prepare my heart for the emotions I must endure in order to reach a place of peace and forgiveness. Please show me how to accomplish this and guide me along the way. Hold my tongue when you see me straying from words that would bring you honor. Banish the bitter thoughts that enter my mind at times. Free me from fear and give me strength to endure this battle. Bring lightness to my step and return laughter in my life. Pave the path before me and make it clear. I tell myself that through your son all things are possible and yet I hold back giving Christ total control of my life. Teach me Lord, how to let go and allow your precious light to shine through my life for all to see the change it makes in me. Make me an example for others and continue to make our home a lighthouse for others to retreat to. Amen