"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do I Really Believe?

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

     This question from the Truth Project film series caught my attention a few years ago when I first watched it and repeatedly returns for me to grapple with.  How can one question so rock the core of my beliefs? Why does it unsettle me even now?  It is the type of question that cannot be left alone, hanging unanswered in the wind.

     It demands an answer. 

     The quick and correct answer, of course, is yes.  Yes, I believe it is all real.  I base my life on it, don't I?  Then, why don't my actions display my belief?  Why do I not rest in the beliefs like I should?  I decided to examine a few of the basic beliefs that I hold as true. 

  • God loves me.
           (1 John 4:16 NIV) "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
           God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."
  • Jesus became a man and shed his blood to pay the price for my sin, allowing me to be pure in God's eyes and have direct access to him.
          (Romans 3:25 NIV) "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,
           through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith."

         (Romans 5:1-2a NIV) "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
          we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we
          have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."
  • God is glorified in me when I am satisfied in him.
         (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate
          the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing
          glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

         (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV) "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
         do it all for the glory of God."

     God loves me.  Yes, I believe that. I've been told that for as long as I can remember.  Then, how come I do not always love me? If the God of the universe says I am acceptable, cherished, worthy of love, who am I to go against that?  If he is loving and knows what is best for me, why do I worry?

     Do I really believe it?

     Jesus made a way for me to talk to God directly.  Yes, I believe that as well.  Then, why do I struggle with prayer?  Why do I not use this amazing access that I have to Almighty God daily, hourly?  If I believe he is with me always, why do I still feel alone?  

     Do I really believe it?

    God is glorified when I am satisfied in him. Yes, another basic belief I hold. Why, then, do I not give him glory in the everyday tasks he has set before me?  Instead of being satisfied with my place in life, I am often restless, displaying doubt over his wisdom in placing me where he has.

     Do I really believe it?

     Do I  simply know the facts, or have I internalized the beliefs?  Have I allowed them to become a part of my daily life? Perhaps not as much as I originally thought.  The good news is that until I meet him face to face, I have more opportunities to live for him, more chances to glorify him, and more questions to answer.

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

     Gracious Lord, you know my faults and failures and accept me anyway. You know what I struggle with and would rather I spend time clarifying than dismissing altogether. You are big enough to handle my questions.  Thank you for giving me a lifetime to walk with you one step at a time. Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is Jesus Still an Infant?

     My two year old daughter sat on the kitchen floor holding a Christmas book, examining each page carefully before moving on to the next.  When I asked her what she was looking for, she replied, "Finding Baby Jesus!"  Squeals of delight upon spotting the tiny infant in the manger erupted, followed by a toddler's rendition of "Jesus Loves Me."

     Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves you!

     I marveled at the simple joy in her heart and was brought to tears thinking about how the Lord is preparing her little soul for one day accepting him fully as her Savior.  My prayer is that she delights in Jesus more and more as she learns about who he was as a baby and who he is as an adult.

     Jesus was a baby boy.  He was perfectly sinless, completely God and completely man. At this time of year, my focus is certainly on the infant and how he came to dwell among mankind. It is easy to accept this Jesus.  It is easy to love and adore this baby.  But can I surrender to this Jesus, or teach my daughter to trust him one day?

     If Jesus never grows up in her mind, how will he be able to hold the problems of her world in his hands?  If Jesus is still spitting up milk, how can she trust him to speak truth from his lips?  If the miracle of his birth is not one day paired with his sacrificial death, he remains in the manger, hundreds of years removed from her day to day life. 

     "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52 NIV)

     I look forward to revealing more and more of Jesus' life to my little girl. I long for her to experience his peace and presence as I have so dearly.  I want her to be in awe of the infant and be awed by the love Jesus has for her.

     Jesus, thank you for submitting yourself to the rules of nature so that I might identify with you more fully. You are love itself, wrapped in a blanket and wrapped in all the power of Heaven. Please give me wisdom as I teach my little ones about your birth, life, and death.  May they one day realize that you are the only perfect gift to the world.  Amen


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Choice to Worry

  • How to greet my family in the morning
  • What to think about in the shower
  • What to wear today
  • When to leave the house for my meeting
  • What to talk about with my kids in the car
  • Where to sit at my meeting
  • Whether I spend time today worrying about our finances 

     Thousands of choices are before me every day.  Some are automatic, habits ingrained due to repetition. Most happen in a matter of seconds. I do not always think about the choices that I make or even recognize them as choices. Worrying falls into this category.  It is a choice, a bad habit that can be (and should be) broken with prayer and persistence. 

     Prayer helps my heart focus on truth.  I ask God to first make me aware of the times I am worrying. It is similar to carrying a large suitcase around with me all day.  It is a heavy and tiresome load to bear.  The contents are precious to me, but I do not trust others to care for it as I do.  My choices are clear.  Do I continue in my effort, furthering my frustration and exhaustion?  Or, do I choose to bring the baggage before my God and  leave it with him?

    Sometimes I leave my load with the Lord only to pick it up again the next day.  

    Now I am faced with the choice of beating myself up about the backslide, or trying to let go again. So many times I focus on the first option, when persistence is what I really should choose.  So, I go to God once more in prayer and ask for forgiveness and the strength to try again. And again. And again.

     I have heard that it takes at least four weeks of doing the same thing over and over again to form a habit. I imagine it takes a bit longer than that to break one. If I keep choosing to trust my Heavenly Father with the issues I am worrying about, after awhile it will get easier and easier to do. Perhaps it will become second nature some day, like getting ready in the morning.  I will wake up, get out of bed, set my suitcase at the foot of the one who is strong enough to carry it, and begin my day.

     "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

    Thank you Lord for thousands of opportunities each day to trust you.  Help me not to get discouraged when I make poor choices, but to turn to you again and again.  I know your desire for me is to live a worry-free life.  Show me where I am not trusting you fully.  Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

1000 Blessings

“When grief and grace both kindle in us the same flame of gratitude towards God - it’s only then that our love for God ignites in a pure blaze of glory.” Ann Voskamp, from  A Holy Experience Blog.

     I'm fairly new to Ann's idea of listing out 1000 gifts to be thankful for this year, but what better way keep my focus on Him during this Christmas season, than to start my own list.

     Please consider joining me in creating a list of 1000 blessings before the new year starts.

.#1 A warm home
#2 Three healthy children
#3 Twinkling Christmas lights in our living room
#4 Scented candles
#5 Songs that stir my heart
#6 Sisters who live close by
#7 Friends who pray for me
#8 Hot tea
#9 Favorite slippers
#10 Forgiveness

Change and Control

     If I were asked to define my current life in one word it would be "change".  Loss of a parent, new financial situation, working outside of my home, different schooling choices, and clarity on ministry areas (to name a few) all contribute to my choice of this word.  Any one of these areas would take some period of adjustment and a whole lot of prayer to come out victoriously on the other side. I'm facing them head-on at once. People have told me that making more than one major life change at a time is not wise.  Sometimes though, it is unavoidable.
     Simply rereading this list makes me breathe a little quicker, eyes darting before I close them to ground myself.  Change can be overwhelming. In his book, A Grace Disguised, Jerry Sittser puts perspective on change and loss.  He comments, "Living means changing, and change requires that we lose one thing before we gain something else."
     Change is constant, but it's forms and severity differ. In order to move on and receive new blessings, I have to accept each change.  I do not have to be happy about some changes that are forced upon me, but I can choose to trust that God is good.

     He is in control when I feel like I am not, but am I really in control in the first place?

     Control is an illusion, a magic trick of keeping it all together while those around me stand in awe.  I think I have control over my home, my finances, and my health.  But, to paraphrase another line from Sittser's book, "The only control I really have is the control I have over my response to discovering I have no control in my life."  Wow, that one stung.
     Who has the control if if is not me?  Since I put my faith in Christ, he does.  Actually, even if I did not believe in him, he would still have the control.  Similarly, I could choose not to believe in gravity, but when jumping, I still land on the ground. 
     Control and change. Change and control. Seems like the best option is for me to admit most of it is out of my hands.  Thankfully, his hands hold the world together, and the control he has is not an illusion. I am a very small part of his grander plan.  When I ponder and accept this, I fear change less. I am also less anxious when I realize more changes will come. Psalm 62:2 says, "Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (NIV)

   One song I have clung to during the past few months: 
"Your Hands" by JJ Heller

    God, when my world is shaking, I am thankful Heaven stands.  You know what changes I am going through right now.  You know what changes lie ahead.  Help me to release my illusion of control into your able hands.  Amen.