Thursday, April 23, 2020

Eternal Beauty-The Secrets of God

Ecc. 3:11 "He has made all things beautifully appropriate in their moment.  He has also placed eternity in the hearts of mankind, yet they cannot fathom the scope of it from beginning to end."

Pr. 25:2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.  It is the glory of Kings to search it out."

Genesis 1:28a "God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it."

Everything has its time-the moment in which it is so perfectly appropriate that it is beautiful.  The most ugly things you can imagine take on a fierce beauty at the perfectly appropriate moment as they fulfill their unique purpose.  Yet we, as humans, look to see the eternal scope and are continually frustrated.  It is as if God Himself dyed eggs and hid them for us to discover at just the right time. Those who wish to be in control (rule) eagerly hunt for those treasures and delight both in the finding and the sharing.   For it is in the finding of God's secret patterns of time, space, and concept that we discover what it takes to bring order to chaos, light to darkness, manicured gardens from weed patches.  Those secrets show us the beauty of all that is around us by exposing what each thing is intended to do and be to make the whole work elegantly.  We are made for this search.  There is no greater joy than finding the perfect solution at the right moment; watching its implementation bring life and order to everything around us.

Are you searching for beauty during this trying time?  The beauty is all around you.  It includes moments when people show up at a hospital parking lot to flash lights at the staff to tell them how much we appreciate what they do.  It's curbside delivery in a pandemic.  It's people volunteering to sew masks or 3D print Love and Peace on face shield frames.  It's the perfect preventative treatment at the moment we need it.  

If you have forgotten what we're about and why we do all that we do, this is why I do all that I do.  If you want to rule, then it's time to go find the secrets God has hidden, not to keep us from information, but to give us the excitement of the chase, the 
joy of the discovery, and the beauty of the unveiling.  

Friday, March 6, 2020

Faithful, Wonderful, Intentional: Is. 25:1

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.

Isaiah 25:1 NIV

Perfect faithfulness
Wonderful things
Intended (planned) long ago

I am in awe, Father.  You show us, by example, the way to be productive and successful.

You are perfectly faithful.  You never let us down.  You never leave things out.  You never tire of us or of the tasks before You.  No detail is ignored, no moment wasted, yet without hurry or frantic action, all is complete and completed.  Even when we let You down, You tenderly pick us up and encourage us to try again.

You do wonderful things.  Good enough may be enough for us, but You do all things well.  You create beauty in every atom and every sunset.  You clothe the grass with splendor to shame Solomon.  You have infinite time and space and yet waste none of it.  Even cycles of rest and labor work wonderfully together to bring joy and peace.  Every piece of the whole orchestrates toward Your intention and Your intentions are good.

You are completely intentional.  You think so far ahead and afield and plan for every circumstance.  Your plans are comprehensive yet flexible; thorough, yet relaxed.  No chess grandmaster or military strategist could anticipate as You do.  Before even light had come to exist at Your word, You had encompassed all within Your infinite plan.  Yet you allow us to choose our own way and plan for that as well.

In all Your ways You are faithful.  In all Your creation, Your passion creates wonder.  In all things You choose the outcome You intend.  We long to follow You, as dearly loved children imitating their Father.  Make us faithful, wonderful, and intentional.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

New Year Goals: More accomplished or More of Him?

I am a huge goal-setter.  I love the beginning of the year because I have such marvelous intentions for the year ahead.  Unfortunately, like most others, my goals often go awry sometime in the first quarter (or January, truth be told).  Letting go of perfectionism helps, but lately, I've started praying into my goals in order to make sure that I'm working on what He finds important for the year, not just what I would like to accomplish.  When I figure out what His intention is for my year, it's easier to make goals that push me that direction--and He's pretty good at lowering the bar for what I must do and raising it for what He will do.  Part of that includes asking myself (in His presence) why I want to accomplish that goal. 

For instance, a few years ago, a few of my friends decided they wanted to read through the Bible in a year.  I had time to blog back then, so I said, "Sure!! and I'll blog about something every day too!!"  January had 30--not bad!  February had 20--not terrible!  The rest of the months to August had 2 or 3--still better than my historic average, but not anywhere close to what it needed to be.  I also didn't keep up with reading the Bible through the year.  So why did I quit? 

It is grueling, but that's not why. 

Perfectionism is part of it, but that's not why either. 

The answer to why I quit has to do with why I started it in the first place.  I wanted to read through the Bible in a year because everybody else was doing it.  It seemed like one of those "good for you" goals--like brushing your teeth or eating your vegetables. When it turned out that it wasn't as "good" for me as I thought--I didn't derive enough benefit from it in terms of my real goals--the fact that others were doing it was not enough to keep me going. 

My real goal for reading the Bible is to know God better and hear Him for myself.  Reading through the Bible in a year began to feel like a chore to be checked off rather than a time to commune and enjoy Him.  The first time we read through the Bible together as a family was when I was a toddler, and it took us 3 years.  What I wanted was to Know Him and rushing through it made it feel impersonal and overwhelming, rather than intimately connecting. 

So if your goal is to get closer to a real God who really knows and loves you, there's a better way.  To learn how to hear God for yourself follow these three (ridiculously easy) steps.

1.  Ask God to speak to you and open your Bible:  Believe that He will.  Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice," so trust Him to open your ears.  Use a plan of some kind so you're not playing Bible roulette, but any old place will do. 

2.  Journal:  Open your Journal and write down the day, time, and the passage you're in. Read until something hits you between the eyes. 

3.  Start the dialogue:  Write the part that hit you in your journal in a personalized way.  If He is speaking to you, write it as if He is talking directly to you--even include your own name where it says "you"!  Then write back to Him.  Thank Him for what He will do or tell Him what will change in you because of what He said.  If the passage captures your heart's cry to the Father, then write it like you would say it to your closest friend.  You may find that the Holy Spirit will bring up the deepest cries of your heart in a passage--things you didn't even know you wanted or needed.  Recognize that if He is driving you to pray that, He already has an answer planned for it so thank Him in advance for hearing your heart and providing all you need.  Allow Him to shape your heart's desires and prayers as you go.  He may show you better things to want than you started out with. 

A baby Christian could do this and begin their journey with Him.  An 80 year old intercessor that has followed Him all her life could still use this.  It would probably even work for an unbeliever as long as they suspended their disbelief long enough to try it.  It could be 5 minutes.  It could be a conversation that lasts 5 hours.  What is important is that you connect with Him and that's all that matters. 

Try it out and let me know how it goes.  If you like, you can even post your journal entry for others to see what it's like.  I'm sure the encouragement will spread like wildfire.

Next time, I'll post what I'm trying this year for Bible reading.  It's similar to this, but has a new twist I haven't tried before.  So far I'm really enjoying it. 

Praying that He will make Himself real to you in a fresh way...

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

10 Things to Pray for your Community--back to school edition

Katie was not thrilled with first day of school pictures this year...Too bad!  Mom's are invincible. 

Ok, you invincible moms, the kids are back in school.  Our God is good.  So what are we doing on our knees?  Here's a quick guide to taking a look around your community with God's eyes and heart.  You can do this as you're out walking for exercise, running errands, or just as you talk to others around you.  

  1.  Open Eyes. Ask the Father to open your eyes to what He's already doing and pray for it to grow (John 5:17).
  2. Purpose. Ask Jesus what purpose He has for your community.  (Daniel 2:21) What are their strengths?  What are their weaknesses?  What do they honor?  All of these hint at the purpose God has for your hometown.  Pray that they use that purpose to honor God and serve each other.
  3. Expose and End Wickedness. Ask God to expose wickedness and oppression in order to end it.  If you're brave, you can ask to be part of the solution.  (Pr. 31:8-9)  Repent for the sins you see on their behalf.
  4. Wisdom. Ask the Holy Spirit to give your community leaders wisdom and practical insight.  (I Timothy 2:2)
  5.  Homes. Ask the Father to turn the hearts of the fathers and children to each other.  (Malachi 4:6)  Remind God that He has promised to be a Father to the fatherless and a Husband to the widowed and abandoned.  
  6. Remit the Sins of those you see around you according to John 20:23 ("If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven.")  Jesus did it from the cross before He died to give us an example to follow.  Those of us under Christ experience no condemnation from Christ because He has already forgiven all of our sins.  He gave us that authority as well, not necessarily to forgive everything for all time as Jesus did, but to release people from the condemnation that keeps them from seeking God at all.  Watch how open people become to God when you do this.
  7. Wise Teachers. Ask God to provide wise teachers that make learning a joy, rather than rebellious teachers that spout foolishness (Pr. 15:2).
  8. Peace. Ask for God to shine His light on us and guide our way into peace.  (Luke 1:78-79).
  9. Not talk; Action. Ask God to keep your lips and the lips of all in your community from evil, deceit, or gossip. Ask that we would be careful to replace foolish talk with fruitful action that pursues peace and opens the Lord's ears to our cries.  (Ps. 34:13-15)
  10. Trust. Commit to release your anxiety over the things you see and replace it with gratitude for all God has already done and prayers of hope and blessing for all He can and will do. (Phil 4:6-7)  Choose to trust that He can and will do exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ask or think in order that He can show His glory through us (Eph 3:20-21).
Have fun and don't forget to just enjoy being with Him as you move around the community.  He's great company!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Honoring God with my body...

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT

This is not going to be one of those diet posts.  It could be, but it's not. 

Today--Akiane Kramirk
One of the the things the Lord has been pushing me on is my mind, will, and emotions.  Many years ago, I learned through long series of crisis after crisis that I could place my emotions on the back burner in order to do what needed doing.  I've been pretty diligent to bring those emotions back up and deal with them later.  Buried emotions come back to haunt you, and the dirt does them no favors.  Now, He's pushing a bit farther.  

What he's pushing me on is the idea that when Jesus died, he paid for all of my sin and everything painful, negative, or hurtful--these are all consequences of the same sin He paid for so they all belong to Him and were nailed to the cross.  They no longer belong to us because He bought them, so we have no right to hang onto them.  In return for giving them up, He promised to give us abundant, overflowing, joyful life.   Every time I experience stress, loss, pain, or anxiety, my dear Friend is pushing me to recognize that those emotions are real, but they are for Him to carry, not me.  I can acknowledge them and hand them over to Him because they do not belong to me anymore.  

Peggy Joyce Ruth wrote an entire book about something similar.  In Ps. 91, it says, "Those who trust in the Lord shall not be disappointed."  The word, "shall" is a command, not an outcome.  It is God's direction to us to choose not to see our current circumstances as the end.  If we are currently experiencing disappointment, it means that this is not the end--He has more to do and we will not be disappointed with it in the end.  

Last week I failed qualifiers for my PhD.  My advisors said the plan is not ready.  I don't have to defend it again, but I do have to rewrite it and that pushes my timeline back at least a semester.  By the time I made it home, I had a piercing pain in the center of my back, as if someone had stabbed me.  That pain ultimately turned out to be the start of shingles.  Truthfully, it does still hurt, both physically and emotionally.  Still, I can hear my dear Friend gently prodding me to let it go into His hands.  Not only am I not strong enough to carry it, but He paid for it already and has joy waiting for me as I hand it over to Him.  I've had to hand it over more than once in the last 2 weeks, and I'll probably have to keep doing it for awhile.  My body, all of me, now belongs to Him and my life is hid in Christ.  It honors Him to trust Him to carry my pain and disappointment.  He promises peace in return, and the peace follows the process as naturally as the dawn follows the night.  

Today will be a good day.  


Friday, July 26, 2019

What does it mean to "believe"?

"Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him."  Hebrews 11:6 (ICB)

Over the last few weeks, God has been pushing me on my definition of belief.  We talk about belief as this crucial thing in faith--and it is, but what does that mean?  I see a lot of people (including myself at times) that "believe" that God is real, but live their lives in a tacit atheism, complicated by worry, fear, and lonliness.  If we "believe in God" shouldn't that make a difference?  

First, let me say that we're all a work in progress and I'm not condemning anyone for their belief or lack of it.  I've known--in my deepest heart and the chatter of my mind--that God is real from the time I was little.  I can't remember a time that Jesus wasn't an ongoing partner in the running conversation that floods my mind continually.  When I left for college, I went to Him and asked if it was ok for me to question His existence in this season of my life.  He laughed. (It was pretty funny.)  

That being said, worry and dread have also been a part of my life for just as long.  What I'm beginning to understand is that believing in His existence is not enough.  There's two parts to faith.  We also have to believe that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. We have to believe He is for us and not against us, and not just in a "good for you," "take your vitamins," kind of way.  I've said, and believed, that God is more interested in your holiness than your happiness, and I suppose that is true, but it leaves out the fact that God is interested in your holiness because it will lead to true joy.  

Jesus said, "What parent will give their son a stone when they ask for bread?"  If God is a good Father, then he should care deeply about our character development.  What parent doesn't?  We want our kids to grow up to be wise and strong, full of integrity.  Yes, that is partly selfish because it reflects well on us, but that is the smaller part.  Mostly we want our kids to grow up to be good people because it will allow them to grow into all they were meant to be--and that will bring them and everyone around them great joy.  I didn't want PJ to be weighed down by selfishness, anxiety, pettiness, or any other character defect because I knew that it would make him miserable.  His misery would break my heart.    

Our misery breaks God's heart too.  As long as we believe that He only cares about making us better people, we will see Him as a task-master or dictator.  When we deeply understand His profound love for us, it reshapes everything.  He can give us good things and we can thank Him for them without wondering what's the catch.  We can trust that He is working all things together for our good, even when the things around us are not good at all.  We can seek Him every morning, because His mercies are new every morning.  We can rest in His lovingkindness--His loyal, abundant, overflowing love--and our expectation of His kindness honors Him. 

Forgive me, Father, for the times I have suspected Your motives were less than loving and your expectations for me were only frustration and disappointment.  I choose to believe that You are good and that You love me.  I choose to look at every circumstance in my life with an expectation of Your rescue and tender care.  I choose to thank You for every beauty, every joy, every success in my life.  I choose to see them as Our work together that You have enabled for my good, Our delight, and Your glory.  Align my experience with that belief.  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three Kinds of Faith--Growing through suffering

Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 by [Willard, Dallas]I've been devouring Dallas Willard's newest book, Life without Lack.  It was compiled after his death from a Bible study he held with a small group from his church.  Dallas is DEEP--he was a philosophy and theology professor at Berkley--but this book is so down to earth it's worth the dive. 

One of the many gems he brings out is that there are three types of faith:  faith of propriety, faith of desperation, and faith of sufficiency.  Dallas uses the story of Job to show us how God pulls us through each of these in order to grow us into full relationship with Him. 

Propriety means what is right and proper.  The Faith of Propriety means trusting God through doing what He wants.  Dallas says, "Job trusted God to be good to him if he lived a proper and upright life."  This is a great place to start and shows a trust in the character of God to be good and fair to us and God recognizes Job's faith and praises him to the accuser. 

Even though this type of faith is genuine, Dallas points out that it is superstitious and religion based.  It's like a codependent agreement with God:  "I'll do what You want me to do so that You will be good to me."  It's a faith mixed with the fear because it trusts in our ability to please God--and we are not always able.  It also tends to want everyone in society to get it right with God so that all of life in that society will be blessed, which can get bossy.  As you might guess, this faith is tested severely tested when trouble comes.

The Faith of Desperation is a bit harder. Job's friends tried to get him to admit that he had messed up and all his losses were a result of his own failure, but Job knew better.  He had remained blameless and God was still good even in suffering.  Job chose to trust God:  "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." (Job 13:15).  Not everyone makes the transition to this kind of faith right away--or even at all.  They pout and fume at God for the perceived injustice of their cause.  Job challenges God about his pain but trusts that God will rightly judge on his behalf. Dallas points out that, "The faith of desperation--trusting faith--digs in, holds on, clings tight, and says, 'I don't care what's going to happen, I am holding on to God!'"  In their moment of need, they continue to trust God, regardless of the circumstance. Job asked really hard questions of God, but he didn't run away. 

Image result for faith in suffering
And God will answer--always, but not always quickly.  God's answers to Job were not the most comforting or empathetic.  They weren't really answers at all.  God's presence led Job to an understanding of his real worth and significance, which wasn't much!  With all the focus on "self-esteem" in our culture, you might think that God's response wasn't very helpful but that couldn't be farther from the truth.  Job was more than satisfied with God's answer because he had a better perspective and could grow into a deeper trust.  Job recognized that God didn't have to answer to him, but He had and Job was humbled and in awe at the answer. 

This is the Faith of Sufficiency.  God is more than sufficient and can be trusted because He is God and I am not.  Job stopped trying to get God to make everything right and let go of his desperation.
Dallas also points out: "Keep in mind that God did not say that Job was wrong in what he said, but that he did not understand what he was saying...Teachers know what it's like to have have a student who has the right answer, but does not have the foggiest idea what he is saying."  Job recognizes that he doesn't get to say what is good or bad.  It's above his pay-grade.  Part of the faith of sufficiency is an understanding of our scope--we are not God.  It's ok to ask for understanding--knowing that it may not be possible for us to understand and we may need to be ok with that.

Dallas also points out that when we look at what Christ did for us on the cross, there are are few things that matter in comparison.  God--the God of the Universe (!!!)--chose to suffer on our behalf.  What is our suffering in comparison?  When we behold the greatness of God, the scope of His sacrifice for us, and the depth of His forgiveness, everything we face seems petty and insignificant.  That doesn't mean we stop hurting, but when we see Him as God and sufficient for all things, it provides a much needed perspective.  "We cannot truly see ourselves until we see God, but as long as our eyes are fixed on ourselves, we cannot see God...Faith requires vision, and a fuller faith requires a fuller vision."

So what about you?  When life is good, a faith of propriety might work and might even please God.  When life is hard, a faith of desperation moves God to show Himself and act.  Are you desperate yet?  Have you moved beyond desperation to a full trust in God's sufficiency?  Have you seen Him as enough yet?  Where can you push your own faith to the next level?