Monday, October 27, 2014

The Key to good....

The key to good anything is so cheap.  Funny how we plan and program and read and study how to do anything or go any place, how we pay good money for how-to books and watch films hoping to pick up what we need to make it good, when what we really need to do is listen.

I remember back in the day, nearly fifty years ago, when I was first married, every week we would go to the post library (Jim was in the Army) and I would get a dozen books, on all sorts of topics, lots of how-to books and a few fiction ones to tide me over to the next week.  That was also before we could afford a TV though I did listen to the radio.  I read books on everything from marital adjustment …smiley face…to cooking to making cheap and cute Christmas decorations and gifts.  Since then I have accumulated shelves of books on prayer and spiritual growth and women’s ministry and a few fiction books to tide me over – we did get a television but there’s only so much you can watch.

But I learned the most about marital adjustment… smiley face... and cooking and making great gifts and decorations a much simpler way, by listening and by meditating on what I just heard or read even.
The theme of my Year Through the Bible this last week has been meditation, and I have been much more intentional about starting my quiet time with meditation…a cup of tea sometimes, but sitting quietly and thinking about God or listening, paying attention to what He might bring to my mind.  I don’t empty my mind of spiritual things, but I do try to lay aside the meal planning, chore list, even prayer list to just allow God to bring back to my mind the Scripture or study I read yesterday or anything that might deepen my relationship or awareness of His love.

I am in a Sister Study for sisters of women who have had cancer.  Periodically they send me (this is relevant) a pretty detailed questionnaire about my health.  A few days ago, God brought that to my mind during this quiet time, and I was so blessed as I rehearsed with God all the “No” answers that I got to mark – all the things that could have gone wrong with my body. It was an amazing time of praising God because I was still enough for Him to bring this to mind.
For me, meditation is like listening, paying attention to what God reminds me of, and I have to say here that sometimes other things come to mind, and I just write them down so I can think about them later.  This is my time with my God, and any good relationship, any growing relationship requires intentional listening, a paying attention to what the other person is saying, I fear that our relationship with God, or anyone else, can too easily devolve to our making assumptions about what might make them happy or honor them or please them, and we miss the boat completely.  So, we find ways of blaming them, or feeling a failure when all we really have to do is shut up, and listen, and think about them, think about God and pay attention to what his Spirit might bring to our mind in that quiet space.

Key image is from Pinterest

Monday, October 20, 2014

Did you ever find yourself in a bad place and wonder how you got there?

Did you ever find yourself in a bad place and wonder how you got there? By bad place, I mean a place that was bad for you; it could be a physical place or an emotional place.  Somehow, through a series of decisions, you had arrived there without even noticing what was happening on the way.  Maybe the steps were tiny, but you walked enough of those tiny steps to arrive at a bad place.
watching tv 300x198 TV stands vs.TV mountsA couple of things happened today to make me think about this personally.  First of all I saw an article questioning the reality of so many Christians watching things of an immoral nature.  I remember a day when we were watching TV with a group of people, and the subject material became a little questionable.  This was when we had teenagers at home.  We sat there with them, not wanting to be bad parents, but after the guests left, Jim unhooked the TV and put it into the basement.  We could not handle the pressure of dealing with all the choices – too much ungodliness on TV even then, and we did not want people to think we thought it was OK.  Too bad we didn’t have the courage to do it while the guests were there.  But you get my point.  Or points.  Peer pressure makes it difficult sometimes to make right choices.  And if our world thinks a certain TV show or movie is OK, even if we are troubled by it, wondering how watching it can be consistent with godliness, we do it anyway…little steps at a time.
Then in my reading through the Bible chronologically, I am taking an up close look at the life of David.  Today I read the passage in II Samuel 21 where David became exhausted in battle, and his men told him this, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” And it appeared that David allowed them to make this decision for him.  You know what happened later; he did not go to battle and got in trouble with Bathsheba. Sometimes, perhaps too often, we allow others to make decisions for us without thinking through the consequences of those decisions.
Today I have been reminded that it is so easy to rationalize our decision making, until we don’t give a lot of time thinking about what would honor God, what holiness would look like in this minute.  I see so many believers putting a two piece bathing suit on a toddler and the next year and the next until she wants a teeny bikini as a teenager, and those choices affect all of what she thinks is appropriate. A discussion of godliness doesn’t come near her appearance.  I’m not picking on girls now.  Just in general, it seems as though we, even as believers, think it is important to be seen as sexy, to be able to talk about the sexy TV shows, and I remember feeling this, too embarrassed to bring up the topic of holiness or godliness.  But I sit here behind my computer screen and today I can say these things.  And be concerned because of how true I believe they are.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I don’t like being scared. That’s the plain truth! But…

I know there are a lot of people that like scary movies and TV shows and scary gory books, but I don’t.  I’m not even fond of people who jump out from behind doors and yell “Boo!”  I think I have lived through enough  real, and what seemed real, scary events in my life that I just don’t get any good thrills out of being scared. Did you ever notice how many opportunities we have in life to be scared, or filled with anxiety, or even just nervous about the outcome of most anything unknown? 
I have been reading through The One Year Chronological Bible, and I admit I did not start until a couple of months ago, so I am still in March, but I have noticed a phrase that seems to pop up fairly frequently: Be strong and of good courage or some variation of it, like in Joshua 1:7 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.” That’s followed up pretty quickly with v. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I think they must have been facing some scary circumstances for God to want to encourage them this way, and to remind them that He was with them, so why on earth should they be scared. And this was not the only time that we find those words or similar ones.  Check out Joshua 10: 25, “And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” Or I Chron. 28:20, “Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.”
We even find similar words in Hebrews 13:5 and 6, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

I guess maybe it is because you see Halloween everywhere right now, and invitations or announcements of scary parties or walks or rides, or maybe it was my introduction to steam punk writing through a very gory piece of writing from one of my students, or maybe it is the myth that I hear proclaimed in some branches of “christianity,” that if you get “right” with God, everything will fall into place and you will be ‘happy.’  Whatever, this I do know, living out your faith can take you to scary places, like war zones and doctors’ offices where the word cancer hangs in the air, or the bedsides of dying loved ones, or …well, you fill in your scary places.  We do all have them.

And that is where those phrases become so important, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper.”  So, I am not going to any Halloween parties or on any scary rides, but when really scary things do come my way, and I know they will, I will remind myself that God knew I would face scary times and He set me up for it with these truths, that He will never leave me and that I don’t need any kind of liquid courage, if you know what I mean, I can walk with real courage because the bottom line is that God is my helper.

sign from

Monday, October 6, 2014

You don't have to believe it to make it true!

Have you ever had a moment, or longer, of doubt that God is who he said he was/is?  Have you ever wondered whether going to or being part of a church was worth it?  Since there are so many hypocrites, after all?  Have you ever found yourself struggling with doubt, because I think if we were honest, most of us have had times like that?

Did you know that God does not need you to believe in him and his Word to make it true? We can muddle along in life, doing whatever we want to, believing or not believing whatever we wish, and he will still be real and his Word true.  All that he said about loving us and sending Christ to pay our sin debt, it still happened, and all the rest of what he preserved for us in the Bible will still happen, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not.
Yes, we can find historical evidence to support that Jesus lived and that people at that time who believed his message were so convinced that they willingly died rather than betray their faith and their God. We can count and look at all the pieces of the earliest texts of the Bible going back millennia, but people who choose not to believe in the reality of a living and loving God dismiss the evidence, simply because they do not want to believe it…perhaps because of what it means if they do.

Funny how we would rather drop off a cliff into the unknown, embracing the fear and doubt that lies there, rather than accept the words of a loving God. Funny how we think that we can pick and choose from the smorgasbord of beliefs and philosophies, that one is as good as another.  Funny how we are tempted to function as if we are gods and we have that kind of power.
But we don’t! Oh, we can make those choices, but God is still who he says he was and is…someone who loves us and has provided for us and who wants us to live a life of love, joy, peace, understanding, and more. 

We live in an era where the popular thought is do and believe whatever makes you happy, and nobody else has the right to say that you’re wrong.  However, if I love you, I have a responsibility to point you to the truth, to remind you that God is still God who loves you and has written and preserved his truth for you, whether you believe it or not. And, if you do place your faith in the truth, that Jesus paid your sin debt, if you can think through that kind of love, you will want to love him back. You will want to know him better.  Real faith will drive you to his Word, to understanding it, to making attempts at showing him and others that you get it.
Real faith produces flawed people who continue to make mistakes, but who are on a journey toward God.  As they grow in their faith and understanding of what he wants for them, that they love him and love others, there will be life changes…not a conformation to some church policy or design, but a conformation to the image of God, the character that will sacrifice itself for the good of others. 

Kind of a rambling message today, but a few days ago I shared those words with a friend, “God does not need you to believe for it to be true,” and those words have been haunting me all week.  That’s the truth, and for some reason, I believe God wanted me to share those words once more, here.