Welcome!

So much of life is waiting. . .

As a Christian, I am waiting for a lot--for God to do His refining work in me, for Jesus to return, for me to GET how much God loves me and for me to see what He is doing . . .

What to do in the meantime? I have learned much about what the Lord is trying to teach me, tell me and show me through the discipline of daily time spent reading the Bible. So often we make this time harder than it has to be.

This blog was born out of wanting to share what God is showing me and wanting to be an example that daily time with God is not a deep or mysterious thing (well, every once in a while it can be), but simply a time to read scripture and note what jumps out at you that day. We don't have to be scholars or super-holy or ministry leaders to do this. Some days I hit the jackpot and others I come up empty--but only by persevering do I give God the space in which to speak and myself the stillness in which to hear and obey.

As of June of 2017, I've now decided to include parts of our adoption journey, which is, so far, yet another chapter of waiting.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Not the Goal, but the Getting There

"Joy in the journey." Hearing that phrase makes me cringe. On every set of personality profiles I have taken, I am in the group who are fairly logical, highly bossy, and extremely goal-directed. I don't want to enjoy the journey. I want to get to the end of the journey and get the prize.

As a Christian, I have often been exhorted to enjoy the process rather than be so focused on the end result. Yeah, yeah, whatever, just tell me what to do to succeed and leave me alone so I can figure out how to get to the end. I've had glimpses along the way where I have seen the wisdom in these exhortations, but I am quickly lured back into the pursuit of the end goal, reasoning that the faster I get to the end, the more time I can bask in the joy of arriving.

One of the newest adventures I am living is that of marriage. I was single a long time, and God taught me a lot through that experience. I've only been married about two years, and the Lord continues to teach me, reinforcing old lessons and introducing new ones. Recently I was feeling frustrated because (unsurprisingly), there are some areas in which both my husband and I continue to mess up, to need repentance, to ask forgiveness, and to try again.

For me, the area is that of speech. Anyone knowing me is aware that I tend toward criticizing and complaining, and have for my entire life. I can remember my parents telling me to stop being so critical when I was about eight years old. I have looked up Bible verses about speech. I have memorized them. I have prayed for God to help me. I have tried to uncover WHY this is my default. If I had a dollar for every time I have apologized to someone about my words, I would be rich. Yet I still do it. The Holy Spirit lives in me, and I have the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead in me (see the whole book of Ephesians), but I still do battle with myself over the words that come out of my mouth and the need to share them with others, regardless of the effect. My husband has his areas which are similar. Places where he falls over and over and over and has to come to me and confess and ask forgiveness.

Our situation is not unique. All of us battle sins and faults. However, in my mind and heart I believed that somehow, if I just kept working hard, or praying hard, or spent enough time with God, I would be free of ever hurting someone with my words again, and then I would have arrived. I would be completely happy. Someday, my husband would overcome his difficulties, and, between both of our victories, our marriage would be the Shining Christian Example of Jesus at work.

That's a lot of pressure, to be perfect before I can be joyful. The result is that every time either of us fails (which is a lot), my happiness and view of my marriage and my relationship with the Lord takes a hit. The thoughts in my head include: "Why can't we GET this? We both love the Lord. We're both trying so hard." "I don't want to do this my whole life. I want to be done and able to just relax." "I want to have a good marriage, and be a glory to God. Instead, we're just a mess."

Yeah. . . lots wrong with all of those statements, actually. Last weekend I heard a message about King David. He was nearing the end of his life, and he was, once again, battling the Philistines. The theme of the message was David renewing his hope in the Lord. What I noticed and have been thinking about is that David never "arrived". He never had more than a few years of calm and peace. He starts out being anointed king of Israel, but has to wait over ten years to assume the crown, fighting and running and hiding throughout those years. Then, he still has to fight the enemies of Israel. He sins with Bathsheba and reaps the consequence of that choice for the rest of his life, his family dealing with the fallout for generations. Yet, in recounting the history of the later kings of Israel and Judah, they are always compared to David. The Lord promises David that his throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).

David never got it all together, yet he is still put forth as an example of a man of faith. Thinking about this, I realized that my premise was faulty. I will never be perfect until I die. The whole reason I need Jesus is because I will never, ever be able to get it right. Yes, I need to keep learning and growing and drawing closer to the Lord, but I will never be able to say, "Hey, look at me! Look at my marriage! We have it all figured out and now we can relax because we made it and God is happy with us."

Because of Jesus, God is happy with me now. Even if I am still apologizing on my deathbed for something that I said, I can still be joyful because of my relationship with God. There IS NO arrival until I am with Jesus. There is ONLY the journey of drawing closer to the Lord and learning to love and know Him and others better. Just this morning, I read Psalm 16, which was written by David:


I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

  You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:8-11) 

My joy comes from the presence of the Lord, not my performance. Period. His presence is experienced during the journey, not only when I have completed it. May I have the eyes and heart to see and believe that truth.




Monday, May 30, 2016

So THAT'S What I've Been Doing Wrong!

Every once in a while, I hear a message that both convicts me and illuminates truth to me. Christian nerd alert: I listen to podcasts of messages, usually from The Summit, the last church I attended in Missouri; and often while I clean. Please don't calculate my lack of regularity in cleaning when I confess that the last message I listened to (about a week ago) was from February 14, 2016. It is a message in a series about James, and the focus was from James 3:13-18:


 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
I recommend that you listen to the entire message for yourself: "Faith that Moves Us to Godly WIsdom", and put forth the caveat that what follows is how God used these words in my life, and may or may not communicate exactly what the pastor was trying to impart.

If you know me in real life, or even through this blog, it is not a secret that a weakness of mine is my speech and how I use my words. Sometimes I don't think. I am quite opinionated, and sometimes I don't listen. The past year has had some struggles in it, primarily my struggle to transition from a predominatley suburban school district to a much more diverse city school district, compounded with the reality that the group of kids I worked with this year have their own struggles with how they use their words and being opinionated. I have been highly frustrated at my inability to establish a class community of kindness and respect.

The crux of the message that I listened to was that, if we speak truth without humility or love, we actually can cause truth to be used by the enemy and can tempt other people to sin. I have said to loved ones, more than once, "But it's TRUE". This reply is usually in response to someone telling me that I am being negative or have hurt their feelings. I felt like it was their problem if what I said was true.

Ephesians 4:15 says this: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ." I am quite familiar with that verse in theory. Apparently not so much in practice.

Could it be that much of my frustration in my classroom is due to the fact that, while I was speaking the truth about the inappropriate/disrespectful speech and behavior, I was doing it without humility or love? My correction wasn't coming from a heart wanting to help my students become better people, but from a heart wanting my class to behave in front of others and to simply make my day easier (both motives based the selfish ambition James referenced)? Furthermore, since my discipline was being delivered with little love, it actually caused MORE problems and disrespect (aka sin) from my students?

Closer to home, my other big struggle of the year (my life?) is how I share truth with my husband. Just the day before I listened to this message, I had shared a truth without (I now know) love or humility, and when my husband's feelings were hurt (and it wasn't even something directly related to him), I just kept saying, "But it's true. I can't help it if it's discouraging." The lightbulb--I was probably only sharing so that I could make some kind of snarky or self-righteous pronouncement, not to bring love or grace into the situation.

It's been a week or so since I listened to the message, and I have been praying about it and thinking about it often. I have also been trying to put it into practice. The only way that my heart will change is to draw closer to Jesus and the cross. When I do that, I see the sin in my own heart, and the humility and love that Jesus offers me even as He shows me the truth of my wickedness and my need for His redemption. Has my class magically become sweet and compliant? No. But I am becoming better at speaking the truth with love and taking time to weigh my words and heart.

My true words, in order to be truly wise, need to be peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, and sincere, just to name a few. (James 3, 17).  I will only find this wisdom by drawing near to Christ.

 



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dimly

Still trudging out of the desert over here. I continue with reading through the Bible in a year and read in both Kings and Luke this week. The account of Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal via the "Whose God can Light the Altar on Fire First" contest remains one of my favorite Biblical stories (1 Kings 18). Elijah sees God's power consume a drenched altar and the prophets of Baal defeated. However, immediately after this victory, we find Elijah dejected in the desert, having fled from Jezebel and her threat on his life.

While in the desert, Elijah meets with God, and tells the Lord:
". . .I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant,thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:14)
In Elijah's mind, all hope is gone, and he is all alone, the only one who is faithful to the Lord. However, God reveals to Elijah that there are seven thousand people who have not bowed their knee to Baal. Seven thousand, instead of just Elijah.

Sometimes I have the same amount of faith as Elijah hiding out in the desert. Elijah feels alone, and is certain that there is no one else on his team. Yet, there are 7000 people allied with him. What he believed wasn't true. It wasn't even close to the truth. It reminds me of Jesus' miracle with the loaves and fishes. Though the disciples had seen him do miraculous deeds, they didn't believe He could feed the people, and yet there were twelve baskets full of leftovers when dinner was finished.

Over and over in the Bible, God provides so much more than we can imagine. I remember days in my life feeling like I would never find a man to marry. There were days I was certain that such a man simply did not exist (and I didn't think my requirements were even that burdensome). Yet, I have been blessed with a husband far better than I ever expected.

This latest stint in the desert has lasted a long time. Days and months of feeling far away from the Lord and morning after morning of opening the Bible out of discipline, deaf to the truth I was reading. I have thought that maybe I would never hear from God again. Reading about Elijah reminds me that I and all of us see so dimly and have such small faith. Elijah was sure he was alone--but he wasn't. I was sure I would never find a husband--but I did. I was almost certain I would never again have truth leap off the pages of Scripture--but it's starting to again.

I want to learn how to walk in faith, and how to remember the loaves and the fishes and the 7000 faithful when I feel hungry and alone. God is at work whether I see it or not. He is present whether I feel it or not. The Chris Tomlin song, "I Will Rise" has lyrics in verse two that speak to this: "There's a day that's drawing near when this darkness breaks to light, and the shadows disappear and my faith shall be my eyes."

I think I see clearly. I am wrong. My eyes, this world, are all shrouded still in darkness until Jesus comes again.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (I Corinthians 13:12)


Saturday, April 9, 2016

No More Fear?

Five months since I have blogged.  Five months since I posted about feeling stuck. Five months in which I remained stuck. Just in the past week or so have I dared to hope that, maybe, I'm starting to come unstuck. Not by any act of mine, but simply by the grace of God.

I struggle with fear and worry. Every day I wonder and worry about someone I love dying. About the new over-forty-year-old body ache that surely signifies cancer or some other dread disease. About a blizzard or tornado, depending on the season. Every time I fly I imagine that I could crash. Every time my husband drives I imagine he could crash. And, all these things could happen.

Tuesday I was reading in the Bible  about the time when the disciples were in a boat with Jesus:  
 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:24-27)
Jesus asks the disciples why they are afraid. I would think it would be obvious: They're in a boat, it's storming, and the boat is being swamped. Which means, to me, that if I were there I would be afraid that the boat is going to sink. Plus, Jesus, the one Whom they look to for help was asleep. Then Jesus tells them they don't have much faith. In the same account as told in Luke 8, verse 25 reports that Jesus asks them, "Where is your faith?" I've been thinking about that question for the past few days.

It seems as if Jesus is saying that if they had faith, they wouldn't fear. Even with the waves crashing, even with the water threatening to sink the boat, they should not be afraid. Why? I went on a search through the New Testament to find the people who were commended for their faith. On the list were the Roman Centurion whose daughter is healed, the friends of the paralyzed man who lowered him through the roof to see Jesus, the bleeding woman who touched Jesus' hem, the Canaanite woman who sought healing for her daughter, the blind beggar who cries out to Jesus, and the tenth leper who returns to give thanks. Each of these were people I found who had direct dealings with Jesus.

What did they have in common? They sought out Jesus and believed that He could help them. Yet, so did the disciples. The disciples also went to Jesus and  asked Him for help. I wonder if (as it always is) it was a difference in what was in each person's heart. Did the disciples really believe that Jesus could help them? Were they annoyed with him for being asleep? Did they truly believe (as they soon learned) that Jesus could still the very winds and waves that were threatening to capsize them? Where had they placed their faith?

How much better would my life be if I weren't fearful and worried, especially over things that haven't even happened? Why can I choose not to fear? Over and over I return to the basic elements of Christianity. I can choose not to fear because Jesus is with me. Nothing that I will face, should my worst imaginings come to pass, will be bigger than God's power and grace. I need to put my faith, my confidence, and my assurance in the person of Jesus--the Jesus who stilled those waves, healed those people, and rose victorious from that grave.

Hebrews 2: 14-15 says this:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Look at that last phrase again: "...those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." I have been a slave to the fear of death. I do not have to be. Through Jesus' resurrection, I have been set free from this fear. I will be with Jesus when I die. The people I love who follow and believe Jesus, I will see again in eternity. I don't need to be enslaved. I am not enslaved.

The Message paraphrase of Hebrews 2:14-15 puts it like this:
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.
I no longer need to be scared to death of death. I no longer need to fear. Come what may, Jesus is in the boat with me. I pray that God will show me how to find my faith and abandon fear.