Monday, April 30, 2012

Weary in Well Doing

Feeling a little weary today. I'm trying to stick with my goal of journaling three times a week, but wow, that's hard work.

In my weakness His strength is made known! And that is my unswerving hope!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Don't Just Count to Ten!

I recently had a bout with anger. On the same day that I was struggling with my anger, I happened to read a devotional about counting to ten when you become angry. (Yeah, probably not a coincidence) I sighed wearily as I began to read it, because counting to ten never really works for me. But as I read on, I realized this was different, and it really did help. My devotional is geared toward a specific anger, but it can apply to any type of anger. I took out the specifics so that this outline can be used in any situation. Here’s how my devotional suggested we count to ten using prayer and scripture:

1.              I acknowledge that “man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life” You desire. Show me Your way, Lord
2.              Let me follow your wisdom and not sin. (Proverbs 4:4)
3.              Help me to search my heart and “be silent” (Psalm 4:4) waiting for your spirit to lead me, because, “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
4.              Make me “quick to listen.” (James 1:19) Help me respond and not react so I will not jump to conclusions or make hasty decisions that I will regret later.
5.              Help me to keep my head “in all situations” (2 Timothy 4:5) so that I may have wisdom.
6.              When the time comes for confrontation, fill me with an extra measure of love.
7.              Give me grace to be careful with my words, so that even when I am angry, I will say “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
8.              Help me to “restore gently” in love. (Galatians 6:1)
9.              Help me not let the sun go down “while I’m angry” (Ephesians 4:26) so that I will not harbor any resentment in my heart.
10.          Please give me grace to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so that I may place all each one of us in your hands moment by moment. Then together we will walk from a season of anger into a season of your blessing and joy.

As I’ve written before, relationships are messy, but so necessary. We need relationships and the messiness that comes with them. That messiness oftentimes involves anger. I’m one who would much rather just run away than deal with anger. I would rather stuff it, or let an offense slide, or even walk away from some relationships, than deal with my anger. But this way of counting to ten helps me deal with that anger righteously and gracefully. It helps me to “take my thoughts captive and bring them into obedience to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) That’s something I’ve always tried and failed to do because I didn’t have anything to replace the thoughts with… they would continue to swirl until I worked myself right back into anger. 

I intend to go back to this list of ten prayers many times as I learn to work through my messy relationships. I hope you will too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Rule of Life

About a month ago, as part of our staff development at our church, we were asked to write a “Rule of Life.” This Rule of Life idea comes from a book entitled “Sacred Rhythms” by Ruth Haley Barton. We each wrote individual plans for spiritual disciplines in our lives. We spent time praying and seeking God about what kind of routine or “sacred rhythm” he designed us for.

I kept my rule of life pretty simple. As a 50-something mom of a preschooler as well as an adult child, a wife, a daughter of aging parents, and staff member at our church, my life is pretty full. Just finding a way to have enough energy to make it through each day can be a challenge!

One of the items in my rule of life is a weekly appointment with God at a local coffee shop after I drop my daughter off for preschool. This is my time to read, journal, and sometimes blog. I still have my regular quiet time at home early in the mornings, but this is to be a time when I go a little deeper… when I allow God to dig a little deeper into my “junk.”

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to keep this appointment. Not because I don’t enjoy it and look forward to it, but because I feel guilty. I am tempted to just go on into work because I have a long “to-do” list there. I feel selfish about spending time alone with a wonderful cup of Snickerdoodle coffee or sometimes even a “Sweet Razzy” latte. I feel like I should be “out there accomplishing something!”

It’s so much easier to be “out there accomplishing something” than it is to turn introspective and be brutally honest with myself about why I struggle with certain things. Checking things off my to-do list is, in the short term, so much more rewarding.

But for the long term, oh, how I need to be transformed! How I need my perspective to be changed! How I need to allow God to sort through my junk. Maybe that’s why this kind of thing is called a discipline, a spiritual discipline.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Promise That's Enough

Oh Lord, life on planet earth is so painful. There are so many who are hurting, grieving: Moms who, after pouring a lifetime of love and self-sacrifice, into their children, watch helplessly as those same children choose again and again to walk their self-destructive paths; Wives who have lost husbands, either to death or divorce which feels like death; Men who have lost, not only their jobs, but their self-respect as well; Children who have lost their parents and are bouncing from foster home to foster home yearning for someone to love them. The list could go on and on.

It seems so unfair. It seems like You really don’t care. You could intervene… You could call ten-thousand angels… Sometimes we feel we need to scream the words of Your Son, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”

But , wait, if even Your Son felt that way, why shouldn’t we? He was the sinless one. Yet He chose to take the sin and disease of every man, woman and child who has ever or will ever live. In His final days on earth, He defeated death, Hell and the grave. He came to preach the good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for captives and release from darkness for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

So why do we still suffer?

For one thing, we’re not in heaven yet. Only there will there be no more tears or crying or pain. Jesus warned us that life on planet earth would be hard, (it was certainly hard for Him.) but then He said, “but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

My devotional for today says, “Jesus is still Lord—but he rules in the same way that he lived, taught and died. When his followers learn again to do the same, we shall see a fresh start… picking up neatly the promise made to Joseph at the very beginning. His name will be ‘Emmanuel’… ‘God with us’. The promise that God is with us is one you can stake your life on.

Larry Crabb’s Papa prayer speaks to me in times like these. Here is what he says Jesus says to us:

“Come to me exactly how you are. Stop trying so hard to be good. Admit you’re not so good. Admit how disappointed you are in what you’ve so far experienced of Me. I know you wonder if I even care. Sometimes you’ve hated Me. Be who you are in My presence. No, it’s not a pretty sight. But I’ve found a way for Me to look at you with excitement. And my Father is singing over you. You won’t hear the music till you come out from hiding. Come. Present yourself to Me. I’ll walk with you as you present yourself to my Father. It’ll be all right. Trust Me.”  --Jesus

If you are suffering today and feel like your heart just can’t take it anymore, if you feel like you’ve been slapped around by life so much that you just can’t get out of bed. Take heart. Jesus walks beside you. He weeps when you weep. Be real with Him. Be honest about how you feel. Come out from hiding. Then you’ll begin to hear the music. His promise to be “God With Us” is enough. Really, what more could we ask. Life on this earth is just a drop in the bucket compared to eternity in heaven, and the God of the Universe has chosen to walk the earth with us. That  is our Unswerving Hope!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Holy Saturday Moments

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday—the biggest celebration of the Christian Church! What a gift we have in being alive in the post-resurrection world. 

But what about those who are living in a “Holy Saturday moment”, the day before the resurrection? This man, whom they called Rabbi, Master, Brother, Son—the man they believed had come to take over the world is dead. Their hopes and dreams are gone. Jesus did not do what they thought he would do. 

There are many people, even believers, who are living in a “Holy Saturday moment” right now. They can’t yet see the victory that the resurrection has given them—they are suffering and waiting when all they can see at the moment is fear, uncertainty, darkness and death. 

I have lived lots of Holy Saturday moments. We all will at one time or another. Here’s what my Lenten devotional said we should do if we find ourselves facing a trial or grief that feels insurmountable—as we stand by watching our hopes and dreams as they are beaten, bloodied, crucified—dead: As you stand there in this strange, powerful mixture of recognition and horror, bring bit by bit into the picture the stories on which you have lived. Bring the hopes you had when you were young. Bring the bright vision of family life, of success… Bring the longings of your heart. They are all fulfilled here, though not in the way you imagined. This is the way God fulfilled the dreams of his people. This is how the coming king would overcome all his enemies. 

Our hopes and dreams may be dead. Things did not turn out like we planned. We had great visions of what we would become, of what our children would become. But it didn’t happen. What we don’t know and can’t see is what God is doing behind the scenes. We feel the earthquakes, we see the darkness, but we don’t understand it. We expected one thing and we experienced something quite different, and we don’t get it. 

At times like these, we can be like Peter and the other disciples—we can run away and hide in fear. Or we can be like Joseph of Arimathea, who took courage and did what he saw needed to be done. 

In the face of scorn and even the possibility of death, he requested the body of Jesus, not willing to allow him to be ravaged by wild animals, birds and vermin or to be buried in a common grave. He wrapped the body in clean white linen and placed it in the security of his own tomb with a giant rock placed in front of it to keep it safe. His hopes and dreams may be been crushed, but he knew there was something special about Jesus. He knew God still had a plan, even if it didn’t match his own. Instead of lamenting the loss of his hopes and dreams, (even though he was surely grieving) he joined God in the work that He was doing. He laid down his own plans—he let them go. Then he picked up God’s plan and did what needed to be done. 

My devotional continues, Our part is to keep Holy Saturday in faith and hope, grieving over the ruin of the world that sent Jesus to his death, trusting in the promises of God that new life will come in his way and his time… We aren't sure why we've got to this place, why things aren't going as we wanted or planned, and the life seems to have drained out of it all. That's a Holy Saturday moment. Do what has to be done, and wait for God to act in his own way and his own time.

And that is my Unswerving Hope!