Wednesday, May 16, 2018

for when you need to see what lasts

It's May.  You may think I knew this by looking at the calendar, but the truth is I know May as soon as it peaks it's crazy little head around the corner.  All I have to do is look at the state of my disheveled home, the piles of baseball equipment strewn all over the porch, the stack of field trip forms and end of school reminders, the yard tools ever sitting in the open waiting for the next spare minute to dig up weeds and put down beauty, and about a million and a half other things that signal, yes baby, I'm here...again!

Ten'ish short months ago we said goodbye to summer and started this new school journey with a challenge to think about what the time ahead would look like and how God would use it to propel us forward.  Can I be honest with you here?  It looked nothing like I thought it would. 

There has been much frustration, anguish, confusion, depression, and giving up.  Having expectations can be dangerous things in all aspects of life because of the effects when they are not met, but not knowing what to expect can take you to places where only fear and doubt dwell.  

The best thing in these times is prayer for eyes to see beyond what you alone are able. 

"Just because the outcome is not what you wanted, it doesn't necessarily mean you made the wrong choice."  D. Crandall

If you look back on the past ten months and wonder where the time went or how you find yourself where you are without much to show for it, I feel you.  You are not alone. 

A few weeks ago Zach and I went to an estate sale at a beautiful old house in Oxford, our little blip on the map.  For those who know me, you know that that experience is one of my happy places.  I love rescuing the old, giving it new purpose, but there was a sadness that crept over me as I walked amongst this house with all of its treasures left behind and the words of Ecclesiastes came flooding back into my heart.

"God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself. but God does not allow him to enjoy them.  Instead, a stranger will enjoy them." Ecc. 6:2

I did not know the people who lived here and I do not know their hearts or how they lived their lives.  I am not saying that they did not find pleasure in the beauty they had collected or that they didn't know where true joy came from.  But what is true is that when they left this earth none of their belongings went with them and while the possessions themselves did last in a physical sense--well some of them, there were plenty of piles of broken items lost in the corners--in a spiritual sense their meaning was lost with the memory of the owner.  A stranger will now enjoy them, this stranger in particular, and impart new memory and have a new pleasure and in the end the cycle will continue.

But in this there is beauty, because as we see the finite of ourselves, we are reminded of the infinite God we have.

Nothing we produce lasts, it just doesn't.  No matter how hard we try to make ourselves known it is futile, but take heart, because there is something that lasts. 

"Everything God does will last forever, there is no adding to it or taking from it.  God works so that people will be in awe of him."  Ecc. 3:14

Everything God does will last forever and guess what one thing is that he did?  He created you.  And not only did He create you, but He uses the Spirit of His Son to work through you, to touch the lives of others, to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on Earth, to, as James says, be doers of the word and make your faith known by your works through action.

It's easy to let what didn't happen cause you to get lost in the disappointments, confusions, and seeming failures.  If you look back on the past ten months and wonder where the time went or how you find yourself where you are without much to show for it, look again, with different eyes.

I have had the honor these last ten months to watch a child grow in maturity in Christ so much he can see the tangible results, watch a friend find a job she is passionate about and bless countless lives in our community, watch a woman cling to Christ at the ending of her marriage and a couple begin a new life together that will bring a father and mother to the life of a son.  I can keep going, and if you look, I bet you can too.

God's promise has not changed.  He promised in the beginning, way back in Genesis 28:15 that behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

It's all a vapor.  Let's not focus on the things that do not last, but the One that does, and what He is doing through us, because He is always doing something.

"If you delight in the fact that you are God's, you CANNOT be disappointed in how He's using you." ~Ryan Johnson

Praying you see your place in this Truth today, pray for me.



Sunday, May 6, 2018

bible in a year: week 18



This year a goal has been set to read the entirety of God's word and there is a host of women joining in on the journey.  Failure is always an option as we are each imperfect people but it is never a reason to give up!  Whether each day is done without fail, catch ups are needed, or some have to stop for a variety of reasons, each word read, no matter how many, will lead us to grow in wisdom, grace, and fellowship with both us and our creator.

It took less than a day of reading to get a deeper understanding of why one can study the bible for a lifetime and still glean new things.  In truth a lifetime is not enough.  As Saint Augustine said, "The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.  Each verse opens up a new thought, a new question, a new understanding of what God has done and sometimes a confusion of why He is doing it.  In moments of questions research is good but there are times where I need to submit to His authority remembering what A.W. Tozer said in his book Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.  The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience.  Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."


Numbers 7-14

I didn't expect Numbers to have so much plot in it.  I expected it to have more, well, more numbers I guess.  I haven't avoided it my whole life exactly, but I have never been too pumped up to read it.  It's sad to think that now.  Not having studied for so long the history of the Kingdom means I have been missing an intense ability to be so thankful for the relative ease of my salvation and the full weight of what Jesus took upon himself starting with the sin of the first generation.

The tabernacle has been erected and the tribes set up each with their own specific job for among Israel.  The Levites become the priests and before their tasks begin the ENTIRE ISRAELITE COMMUNITY (aka millions of people) come together and lay hands upon them.  This is a biblical tradition dear to my heart for the love and support it shows to our brothers and sisters in Christ, physically wrapped in the arms of community while wrapped in words of prayer.

We also see again the way God was continuously with them as a huge cloud or a fire that they daily watched and followed, leaving and staying as commanded, completely dependent, teaching them to be completely dependent.  However, the people, being people, began to complain.  They complained about their food.  I want to be astounded.  I mean, food fell from the sky just for them to eat that was described as "pastry cooked with the finest oil" but instead they grew tired of it and wanted meat.  After everything God had done for them they still found cause for complaint.  You read that and get frustrated, yet it describes so much of me as well.  God then gives them exactly what they wanted and within eating that meat a plague was brought on that killed many.

Then comes more complaining.  First from Miriam that God doesn't speak through them, but only through Moses.  But there is much beauty in here as well.  God and Moses have a beautiful relationship.  Moses is described as the most humble man on earth, which means when he is before God he puts himself beside and listens only to his Father.  When we get out of our own way, setting ourselves, our desires, our plans to the side we see God more clearly than ever.  We see God for who he is and what he is doing and trust him even in the ways we can not see.

One of the saddest stories, in my opinion, came from this week as well.  In Numbers 13-14 after about only a year since their exodus from Egypt.  The Lord tells Moses to send one man from each tribe to scout out the land.  Twelve came back saying how wonderful the land was, exactly as God as described it to be, but only two of them came back confident that they could take the land that had been promised.  Caleb and Joshua tried to spread Faith, knowing that with God they would take possession of their promise, but it wasn't these two that the people listened to.  Instead, they listened to the other ten who spread fear.  It only takes one word to plant doubt in the heart of another.  One small sentence that ends up condemning a generation and keeps them from entering the land God had already picked out for them.


Psalms 42-50

For me, this line of Psalms was very rich.  Going through them one at a time...

42-43 were so rich with feelings that I understand all too well.  Why my soul are you so dejected?  I remember what it feels like to not be that way, but yet to still know you must praise him and still have that desire to praise.  There are times Praise does not come from a place of joy and thankfulness, there are instead times where praise just comes because you know he is still worthy and that he will send his light and truth and the joy will return.

44 contains the idea of a word I learned recently, diaspora.  In order to plant them, you displaced the nations by your hand.  God spreads us.  Over and over in the bible he separates his people using many, often undesirable methods, to send those He loves around in order to make more people aware of him.  They felt in this Psalm what can be known as the Silence of God, where they didn't hear him or feel him but still they have not forgotten him.  We are told many times throughout scripture to be still, to wait on the lord.  He is always working.

46 had two sentences that if I didn't already have three tattoos would be seriously considered.  42:5 says God is within her; she will not be toppled.  God will help her when the morning dawns.  When the Spirit of God is within you you WILL NOT be toppled.  Know he holds you securely and will be there daily to help.

48 Often I forget what forever means.  I forget that forever means forever, I convince myself that forever will run out.  I need as 48:9 suggests to contemplate his faithfulness and remember that the forever he promised is indeed forever and to as it says in Psalm 50:5 to gather to him knowing that (50:15) I can call on him in a day of trouble and he will rescue me.

Song of Songs 5-8

I know I am supposed to look upon Song of Solomon and see beauty and romance and a connection with how Christ loves us his bride, but it's not easy.  After learning that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines it's hard to believe him when he speaks so lovingly about a woman.  Add that to the bizarre imagery and I was a little lost.  I need to read it again with a different mindset and a different attitude.

Isaiah 1-4

Isaiah was called to prophecy to a people who had lost their way and shifted their focus from where it should have been.  Israel does not know him any longer, they do not understand.  Instead, they are making their own way, doing their own thing.  Being demanded from them is heart felt action.  Stop bringing useless offerings that do not truly come from a repentant heart, instead stop doing evil and love what is good.

I love that I get to read it from the perspective of the 'now' instead of the 'not yet'.  I read this rich words and I see their fulfillment through Jesus, "though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as snow."  They had the promise of the will, I have the surety of the have been.

Chapter 2 of this week was my favorite.  The City of Peace.   ALL nations will stream to Him and he will teach us about his ways so that we may walk in his path.  Thank you that your name is spread throughout the world and we have your Word to teach us!   Then to read "No nation will take up the sword against another and never again is there a need to train for war."  Lord, we anxiously await this day.


Hebrews 5-11

I have read Hebrews several times and each time one of two things happens, either I understand all of it and glean a ton or I understand nothing and am super confused.  It all depends on my mindset at the time as to whether I can follow or not.  Many times I find myself at the end of a chapter and think hold on, how did I get here?  I might be revealing too much of my ignorance right now, but hopefully more people can relate than lose respect ;)

One word that keeps coming to mind the entire book is the word empathy.  Much different than sympathy, empathy provides a comfort of being completely known and understood.  We are gotten, all the parts of our actions and minds and sin filled hearts poured over with that sacrificial blood are gotten, not by man, but by Jesus.  he gets us.  We have THAT kind of high priest who fully understands man and fully understands God.  Again we live in the now instead of the not yet as we rest in the New Covenant.  He is our God and we are His people and never again, NEVER AGAIN, will he remember our sins.

Monday, April 23, 2018

bible in a year: week 16




This year a goal has been set to read the entirety of God's word and there is a host of women joining in on the journey.  Failure is always an option as we are each imperfect people but it is never a reason to give up!  Whether each day is done without fail, catch ups are needed, or some have to stop for a variety of reasons, each word read, no matter how many, will lead us to grow in wisdom, grace, and fellowship with both us and our creator.

It took less than a day of reading to get a deeper understanding of why one can study the bible for a lifetime and still glean new things.  In truth a lifetime is not enough.  As Saint Augustine said, "The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.  Each verse opens up a new thought, a new question, a new understanding of what God has done and sometimes a confusion of why He is doing it.  In moments of questions research is good but there are times where I need to submit to His authority remembering what A.W. Tozer said in his book Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.  The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience.  Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."


Leviticus 20-26  

Part of me is glad we are almost through Leviticus, but then Numbers comes next so I don't know how excited I should be getting about moving on.  All of the bible is God breathed so I know this words carry just as much weight and purpose as the praises in Psalms and the encouragement and instruction of Paul's letters, but man, sometimes it's a struggle.  I think the hardest part is coming to terms with why God needed to explicitly say all of these things.  Instructions to not do all of this was because people were doing all of this.  I know I said that last week, but it holds true again. 

Two things struck me this week and saddened my heart while making me rejoice that they were no longer true.  Near the end of chapter 21 The Lord tells Moses to tell Aaron that none of his descendants with a physical defect may come before him.  Anyone in Aaron's line who should be able to be a priest and come into the holy place can not if they are physically disfigured.  He can still eat the holy food, but he is not to desecrate the holy places by going near the curtain or approaching the altar.

I've done a little research and I truly don't completely understand the reasoning behind this.  There was mention of the need to not place a stumbling block between the Israelites and God since the Priest was supposed to be a direct line to God a physical disfigurement could have been a distraction.  Other's talked about medical care.  Then there is also the knowledge that God needs a holy sacrifice, unblemished, perfect.  And he loved us so much that he wanted us to be able to draw near to him which is why he sacrificed His son. 

I know this requirement is no longer true and the the gospel of grace allows all of us, in all our defects, to come before his throne, but the sad part is thinking of how many people have used this passage to attack another, to put down another, to destroy another, to tell another they are not worthy of God's love.  God let us see your words and the intended Truth they are to bring!

The second section that brought much thought and then rejoicing was in Chapter 24.  For generations it was an eye for an eye, a life for a life.  Retaliation.  There must be punishment for action and that punishment was to do whatever had been done.  Jesus immediately made this disappear.  Turn the other cheek he said. 

I never understood how completely foreign that concept was at the time.  After generations and generations of being able to retaliate, Jesus told them instead to forgive, there was no longer a need to even the score, because he was going to pay the ultimate price to do so for eternity.  It's a completely beautiful change, brought on by the Grace of God, but oh man, that could not have been an easy eternal shift for everyone.  Some would embrace that, knowing that they had just been pardoned so much, but others, who couldn't see their own wrong doings would become angry because the Justice they so wanted to dish out was not longer their 'right.'  I have been on both sides of that line, it's a hard one, but a needed one to process through.

Psalm 25-33

*NO one who waits for you will be disgraced
*Make your ways known to me, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me for YOU are the God of my salvation.
*I wait for YOU all day long
*You are my light and my salvation
*Seek his face
*I am CERTAIN I will see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living.
*Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous.  Wait for the Lord.
*My heart trusts in Him and I am helped
*The Lord is the strength of His people
*Save, Bless, Shepherd, Carry
*You make me stand like a strong mountain
*Into your hand I entrust my spirit;  you have redeemed me.
*You have set my feet in a spacious place

Him not David,  Him not me, Him not us.  Over and over again in the Psalms David praises allowed reminding himself that it is all God.  He is the only Hope.  He is the one who has done, is doing, and will do. 

We wait for the Lord he is our help and shield.  For our hearts rejoice in him because we trust in his holy name.  May your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in you.

Ecclesiastes 3-9

God is a mystery.  We can know him but we will never understand why he does what he does sometimes.  His ways are bigger, His thoughts are higher, His timing is perfect.  This is often frustrating but more often a comfort.  I don't have to figure it all out.  I just have to rest and know that (3:14) everything God does will last forever, there is no adding to it or taking from it.  God works so that people will be in awe of him.


1 Timothy 5-6

I want a Paul who writes to me such encouragement and advice.  Chapter 6 is a big hearty, you can do this!  God is with you!  No matter what others do hold strong to what you know to be true!  He is the only thing worth setting your Hope on.

2 Timothy 1-4

Do we know if Timothy ever made it to see Paul before he was martyred?  I hope so.  I hope they were able to embrace a last time and that words were able to be spoken in person instead of just through a letter, but I am so very thankful for this letter. 

The word of God is not bound.  That is what Paul wrote, what God breathed.  It's not bound.  It reigns free flowing and is profitable for all.  We must use it wisely, for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training.  This can be done without love and cause tremendous damage or it can be done through the love of Christ and cause eternal joy.  4:2 says to do it with "great patience and teaching"  which is another way to say without anger and frustration to prove someone is wrong. 

God speaks through our patience and gentleness, that is how we help others draw near to God.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

for when we want recognition

"A person will brag about something they're supposed to do...What do you want a cookie?  You're supposed to [do that!]"  ~Chris Rock



I first heard this quote from a CD my brother had growing up.  When it came up in my memory banks recently my first thought was "I can't believe my parents let us listen to this!" My second thought was "Hold on, did my parents know we listened to this?"  For your benefit I left out the numerous expletives and paraphrased a bit, but the point still comes across and its a good one.

Another quote along these lines my children have actually been repeating a lot lately.  It is said by the mom in the movie The Long Haul which is based on the Wimpy Kid book with the same title.  An intelligent source indeed.  Side note, the actor and actress who play the parents in the movie are none other than the drummer from That Thing You Do and Cher from Clueless.  My mind took awhile to process that one.

Regardless of how ancient I felt when I saw them, she still had a great response when her children asked for something in return for taking them to a Country Fair,  "The Fair is a TREAT!  You don't get a reward for getting a treat!"  Oh man if I had a dollar for every time my boys asked me for a 'prize' when they behaved somewhere.  Seriously?  Your prize is not getting in trouble.  Hope you enjoy it.

Ready for blunt honesty?  I too want the treat, the prize.  Yes please, I WOULD like a cookie.

If you asked me point blank I'd want to say no, of course I don't think I should get something for just doing what I am supposed to do, for doing my job, but the truth is most of the time I do.  I want the recognition.  I want the appreciation.  I want flowers, or a thank you, or a shout out on social media, or a big dang chocolate chip cookie!  I think a lot of us do.

It's not that rewarding good behavior is a terrible practice or that recognition for a job well done should be done away with.  However, rewards and recognition should not fuel our actions and the moment they become expected our hearts have taken a dangerous shift.

A verse in Luke kind of sent me spinning toward thinking all this through.  "In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, "We are worthless servants; we've only done our duty."

Now, you are not worthless.  You are loved and set apart and created for purpose.  There are hundreds of verses that tell you how much you are loved and how uniquely you were created and if you find yourself right now in a moment of despair please take time to read this before continuing.  

For now, there is a need to look from a different angle, because the point of this specific thought is that we as humans begin to expect praise and admiration for every little thing we do and will get into the habit of not accomplishing something unless we know that praise will happen.  With that comes the loss of thanksgiving in our hearts and the rise of entitlement in it's stead.

I don't want to walk around this Earth as a consumer, ready to simply take and take as much as I can, but it is often easy to slip into that mode.  Lets face it, there is so much out there to take!  Instead, I want to walk this Earth for both taking the gifts others extend and giving the ones I've been given. 

The only way to combat the constant need for reward is through the beauty of generosity.
  
Giving generously is only possible when you acknowledge what you already have.

Acknowledging what you already have is only possible when you understand that in Christ we have been given everything we need.

I can give generously, while graciously accepting what is given in return, whether it is in the form of a yummy cookie or just the knowledge I am living the life I was given to live.

This is not an easy goal, but it is a worthy one, and within it will come a change in our inner dispositions as we are molded to be more like Christ.  I am praying for you as you search to see if you might be tempted to demand instead of give. Pray for me.



Sunday, April 15, 2018

bible in a year: week 15

This year a goal has been set to read the entirety of God's word and there is a host of women joining in on the journey.  Failure is always an option as we are each imperfect people but it is never a reason to give up!  Whether each day is done without fail, catch ups are needed, or some have to stop for a variety of reasons, each word read, no matter how many, will lead us to grow in wisdom, grace, and fellowship with both us and our creator.

It took less than a day of reading to get a deeper understanding of why one can study the bible for a lifetime and still glean new things.  In truth a lifetime is not enough.  As Saint Augustine said, "The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.  Each verse opens up a new thought, a new question, a new understanding of what God has done and sometimes a confusion of why He is doing it.  In moments of questions research is good but there are times where I need to submit to His authority remembering what A.W. Tozer said in his book Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.  The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience.  Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."


We made it past the 100 day mark this week!  Triple digits!


Leviticus 13-19

Ahem, so, Leviticus this week was full of information.  It was not information I wanted to read while eating breakfast, but I didn't know it at the time.  Nothing like a chapter on skin diseases to boost the appetite.  In a brief summary Chapter 13 was on skin disease, 14 was cleansing skin disease, 15 was bodily discharges, 16 was putting all your sins on a goat and releasing it into the wild, 17 was not eating an animal's lifeblood, 18 was who and what not to have sex with, and 19 was a little more clarification on the specifics of the ten commandments.  

I am not saying this to make fun, because all of this information was very beneficial and VERY needed!  You don't tell a man not to have sex with his sister unless someone is doing it.  I'm just saying.  As a mama I understand all too clearly the needed to say phrases you never ever thought you would have to say.  I didn't know I needed to have told my three year old to not stick his head in a toilet.  I didn't know I needed to have told my six year old to not ride his bike down the street and take things out of our neighbors mailboxes.  I didn't know I needed to say that, but God knew exactly what he needed to say.  And he said it so we would not only clearly know His expectations, but to also save us from the consequences of living a life apart from His commands.  

We are depraved individuals, without God's law people run amok.  Without the Holy Spirit's guidance we do the same thing.  But in the middle of all these chapters of yuck and no-nos there was a scapegoat.  Once a year placed upon this animal were the sins of all and they were cast into the uninhabitable places.  Once a year the Israelites saw their sins taken away, were trained to watch as they were carried on the back of another.  For generations and generations this happened and they were expectant and anticipated that day.  And it trained their hearts and minds to recognize and comprehend the sacrifice of Jesus when it came.  Those with eyes saw that ultimate scapegoat and praised God for eternal atonement.

Thank you Jesus.


Psalm 15-24

There were some beautiful Psalms this week.  David prayed for protection in 17 and praised God for his deliverance in 18.  I love these back to back.  Prayer and answer.  God heard and immediately David praised him for it.  I love reading David's exact words, because no matter what they are and from which emotion he is writing, there on paper are his conversations with his creator.  We get to look back and see it.  Journaling prayers was a daily occurence for me until this year.  I haven't quite figured out how to fit in all the reading in the morning along with prayer journlaing.  I guess I should say instead, I haven't taken the extra time to do it.  David's Psalms this week have pricked the desire in my heart to start again.  To write my own praises to look back on as reminders of prayers and answers and thanksgivings and praises.

My favorite thing this week was from Psalm 20.  In five short words God gave me a clarity I haven't felt in months.  I will share with you here what I already shared in other media...



I wake up each morning with a different schedule, piecing together randomness from the countless areas of life. Not still a mom with children at home all day, but not yet a mom who goes off to work either. This middle has been a struggle, a struggle I did not expect. It's caused grief, it's caused guilt, it's caused confusion. What is the answer to give when asked the question "so what do you do?" What am I supposed to do? 

I read Psalm 20 this morning and at the end of verse 4 it says he will fulfill your whole purpose. My whole purpose. We have purpose and He promises to fulfill it.

Right now, on the journey to my whole purpose, I am beginning to understand that God is asking me to just be available. Depending on the week, sometimes this feels lazy and selfish and then sometimes it feels crazy and overwhelming. 

I don't say this to fish for encouragement for myself, but to give it out to you. I don't know what your feelings are on this. Is it a struggle for you, is it not. Just know that your purpose is being fulfilled, right now in this moment, whether you can see it or not. Praying for you to see.


Proverbs 27-31

Here are some certain Proverbs that stood out to me this week.  Some seemed new, others just need to be more constant reminders.

* Let another praise you, and not your own mouth
* Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another (fun fact, I got to tell the boys this was from the bible when they heard it on a Ninjago episode!)
* The one who conceals his sin will not prosper but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy
* Every word of God is pure!
* Give me neither poverty nor wealth, feed me with the food I need.
* Speak up for those who have no voice
* She rewards with good, no evil
* She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household
* She draws on her strength and reveals that her arms are strong
* Her hands reach out to the poor and she extends her hands to the needy
* Strength and honor are her clothing and she can laugh at the time to come.  Her mouth speaks wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.
* Charm is deceiving and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.


Ecclesiastes 1-2

"I have seen all things that are under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit to the wind."

Solomon is explaining to us how nothing we create, make, do, accomplish, or acquire on this Earth will last.  It is all futile, all a vapor.  When we leave this Earth none of it comes with us.  


I just happened to visit an Estate Sale down the street from my house this week as I was reading Solomon's words.  As I walked around this beautiful old home with it's charms and looked at the items that had been left behind for the rest of us to pick through this words felt very alive, they rung very true.  It's not bad to buy pretty things, it's bad to assume they will complete you.  This goes for wisdom, good business, pleasures, and all the other categories Ecclesiastes will cover in the next few days.

There is only one thing that can fulfill us!


2 Thessalonians 1-3

I know it's obnoxiously trendy right now but when I think about the church at Thessalonica it's #goals.  Paul's words in vs 3 are "your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing" and for that Paul wants to thank them.  I mean, they get it.  They get the gospel.  They heard and understand and you know it by their fruit!

At the end of this short letter in 3:11 he gives them a great reminder, be busy not busybodies.  I stopped and took stock of myself in that respect.  Am I busying myself with the work of God or am I being a busybody?  Sometimes they can look the same, only our heart knows which is which.


1 Timothy 1-4

I try to read Timothy as if I am him and am getting a letter from my mentor full of instruction and encouragement because truly that is what it is.  A wiser, more seasoned apostle discipling another so that he can carry on.  There is plenty in these four chapters to share, plenty to reread and remember and apply.  But one thing in particular stuck out to me.  This year I have written a lot about gifts, spiritual gifts, and again this week the topic came up again.  4:14 says "Don't neglect the gift that is in you." Timothy was being timid, not quite speaking out to his fullness because of age and experience and many other things I am sure.  Paul reminds him and therefore reminds us to not neglect the gift that is in us.  God put it there and He put it there to be used and we must have faith that He is the one who will work through that gift, but we must put it to use for that to happen.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

for when we need to serve as we have been served

 At the top of a mountain in Topa de Sus, Bihor, Romania lives a woman affectionately known by countless Americans as "The Donut Lady."

It is not an easy walk up to her home, even for the most fit.  There is no trail, just land and forests and the occasional pig of goat that has wandered out of its mountain farm yard.

My first trip up to visit Florica was on an unseasonably cold and rainy Tuesday morning in the middle of June.  By the time we reached our destination our entire group was cold, wet, and a bit muddy from the occasional slip during the hike.

We were greeted by the sight of a dog unsure of whether it should welcome us or be on guard, a chicken coup with its feathered residents milling around, and a tiny woman, weathered by age, sun, and a life of hardwork, standing on the small stoop with a big smile and a bigger embrace.

She brought us into her tiny home, and not like those of the current trend, with no apologies for lack of space.  Circling inside the small room, sitting on the floor, couches, or crouched slightly under the low hanging ceiling, we waited as our hostess reappeared with a mountain of homemade donuts on a simple platter, her specialty.

The warm treats were passed around with no thought of washing hands, or passing our plates, or even napkins.  No worry about whether we might spill on the "couch" that was actually her bed.  

They were served by a woman who knew what we all know, that inviting people into your home should not be dependent upon the perfect time or required to have flawless execution.  The different was, she actually believed that and her actions proved it.  She had taken knowledge and turned it into conviction and it flowed from her hands to ours.

In a land we had traveled to by plane and van for over a day, across an ocean and European borders in order to serve others, we were served instead.  The only thing desired in return was our presence--and for our hands to be ever full of her lovingly created pastries.

Peter tells us that "each should use whatever gift you have received to sere others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)

However fun (or stressful depending on the personality) it can be, hospitality is not creating a picturesque atmosphere for another to see.  It does not require shopping for new items before another comes to visit.  It does not mean hiding your mess, dirt, and imperfections and it does not mean leaving all of  those out in the open but apologizing for doing so.  Hospitality is simply serving.  Serving is taking the gifts we have been given and using them for another.

Serving is not caring how impressive it may seem compared to another's, not caring if we have had the time to tweak our gift to our specifications, not caring how many times we've practiced alone to achieve perfection, but only caring how freely it is given knowing IF it has been given to you by God, THEN giving it on to another is sharing God as well.  Through Him our gifts are already perfect.  Perfectly given to perfectly give away at the perfectly ordained times to the ones who need it.

We are all called to serve, no matter where in the world's eyes we fall on the scale, from the greatest to the least.  In serving, we show God's grace to another.  In serving, we, like Florica, emulate the very essence of Christ.  "For even the Son of Man did not comes to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

I think often of Florica's example, of that full hearted, joyful desire to give, to serve.  Because of it, there is a desire and reminder to not just open my home to anther, but to open my gifts to them as well.  To serve as I have been served.  To serve as Christ did for us and asks me to do for another.  I pray my knowledge becomes conviction and therefore causes an overflow to those around me.

I pray for you today as you seek the ways you can serve by using the gifts you have been given, both in the obvious ways and the not so obvious ones.  Pray for me.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

bible in a year: week 14

This year a goal has been set to read the entirety of God's word and there is a host of women joining in on the journey.  Failure is always an option as we are each imperfect people but it is never a reason to give up!  Whether each day is done without fail, catch ups are needed, or some have to stop for a variety of reasons, each word read, no matter how many, will lead us to grow in wisdom, grace, and fellowship with both us and our creator.

It took less than a day of reading to get a deeper understanding of why one can study the bible for a lifetime and still glean new things.  In truth a lifetime is not enough.  As Saint Augustine said, "The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.  Each verse opens up a new thought, a new question, a new understanding of what God has done and sometimes a confusion of why He is doing it.  In moments of questions research is good but there are times where I need to submit to His authority remembering what A.W. Tozer said in his book Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.  The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience.  Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."


On to week 14.  Yes, week 12 & 13 didn't happen.  Well, technically they happened.  I read and gleaned and read and was confused and read, but being Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday life needed more communicating and fellowshipping than typing.  Today, April 8th, marks 98 straight(ish) days in the Word and 19 books completed.  This is a HUGE deal.  That's 98 days of asking God's word to wash over us.  19 books full of stories and wisdom that tell of Jesus or point to Jesus.  None of these words have left us unchanged.  Whether in life-altering ways or small thoughtful ways, His Word moves within us, doing what is needed.  Bring on the next 267!

Leviticus 5-12

Leviticus is surprising me in two very different ways. 

The first is how disgusting life was.  Seriously, hearing detailed descriptions of the sheer amount of blood and guts and fire and ashes.  Blood being rubbed here and splattered there and poured out over there.  Guts washed in water and burned.  After reading in weeks 12 and 13 of the planning and creating of this beautiful intricately made tabernacle with the finest of cloth and gold and the careful construction of all the pieces of Aaron and his sons' priestly garments only to have them all splattered with the blood of sacrifice is just, well it's yucky, to put it mildly.  And the time, oh man, the amount of time it takes to make just one sacrifice, which leads me to the second thing.

The second thing is that Leviticus is convicting, which I was not expecting.  Between sacrifices for unintentional sin, and sacrificing for intentional sin, and sacrificing as a pleasing sacrifice of thanksgiving, and being unclean until night if this and this happens and so on, you could spend everyday doing nothing but walking back and forth from your pasture to the tabernacle.  God's people had to know and understand so much because of the law.  They had to work, literally work, to please Him, to make a "pleasing aroma."  And, like in the case of Aaron's sons who ended up being consumed by fire, there can be intense consequences at times for not doing what is commanded.  But, we don't.

I'm not going to get into the why of it all now.  Why they needed the law then, why we need the law still, but why we can't and don't have to live strictly by the law because of Jesus.  All I'm trying to get across now is, in reading Leviticus and it's gross descriptions of sacrifice, I see how much I don't appreciate enough the freedom I have to walk straight up to the throne of God and speak to Him, directly to Him.  Without being cleansed first, without sacrificing for my sins first, I, because of Jesus, can enter His throne room and lay it all down in frustration, in joy, in anger, in thanksgiving and he hears me.  He hears me and he holds me and he comforts me because when he sees me he doesn't see the stains of sin, he sees the holiness of his son.  Y'all.  That's amazing.

Psalms 3-14

Psalms can be hard for me to read.  David speaks so much of his "enemies"  which in turn makes me want to plug the names of my "enemies" in to the verses.  It's not the same, that's not supposed to be what I do.  I'm not supposed to read Psalms wishing that my enemies' bones will be ground into dust and whatnot.  Psalms can also come across as whiny went I'm not in the mood to read.  I want to tell David to get over it.  Then I remember, Psalms are prayers, Psalms are David and others, laying it all out, their frustrations and fears and grief and pain, and then at the end having them be turned in to thanksgiving as they remember again and again what God has done in the past and what he will do again for them in the present and future.

3:3-4 you are our shield, you lift up our heads, you answer us from your holy mountain

4:6 you light will shine on our faces so that they can see that there is Good

9:1-2 I will thank you with all my heart, declare your wondrous works, rejoice and boast about you, sing your name.  Lord, help make this an I Will instead of an I Should!

When we feel like the enemy always seems secure, when it seems like all loyalty has disappeared from the human race, when we remember that in us there is nothing good, let us remember that...

13:3 You can restore the brightness to our eyes
13:5 You will treat us generously
14:7 Deliverance has come now because of your Son and we can rejoice and be glad.

Proverbs 20-26

Seek righteousness and wisdom.  In a nutshell, this is Proverbs.  There are handfuls of quotable verses, ones I need to read again and again, some to remember and some to finally understand for the first time.  But in each there is a driving force to the basics.  Righteousness and Wisdom.  If this is what you are seeking then the rest seems to fall into place.  Does this lead to a perfect life? No.  But it will lead your heart and mind away from other things so that you don't fall prey to them.

Colossians 3-4, Thessalonians 1-5

Paul's letters are indescribable.  I love them so and can never get enough.  There in them lie the instruction we all long for.  Our to do list so to speak, but not in a legalistic way, in a because of Jesus we can do this way.  Because as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, we can put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another.  We CAN do this because we are His. 

Reading the end of Colossians and then the book of Thessalonians we see Paul reaching out to his friends and sheep reminding them of their identity and what they are able to do because of Jesus.  We all need to be reminded of this, and often.  We are His so we CAN... I read this beautiful books of loving instruction differently than I used to.  Instead of feeling guilty that I wasn't living how they instruct and trying harder my view has been altered so that I now feel capable of living this way even when I'm not.  It's no longer guilt pushing me, it's love guiding me.  I want to Devote myself to prayer as it says and encourage others by my faith and I am encouraged by theirs.  I want the Lord to increase and overflow with love for another but I also want to recognize when he is overflowing in another for the sake of me. 

As Thessalonians ends like a grandma getting out every bit of advice as you back out of the driveway, we are reminded that He who calls us to all of this is faithful.  He will do it in us.  Him, not me.  Him, through me.