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Things. It seems I have spent a lifetime researching, and then buying – things. It begins innocently enough – you are young. You don’t have much money. You want to get the most for your money. So you are wise, and shop for the best buys, on the best things – things that will not break soon, things that will bring you pleasure (you hope! – because you are certainly spending your time working hard for these things!). Cheap. Good stuff, cheap. That became the motto. Then one day you realize, you are happiest when you are with people, sharing experiences…wisdom…laughing at your shared foibles, or the foibles of others, though you are not making fun of them, or looking down. It is just that the shared foibles of humanity can be – funny! And laughter is certainly enjoyable! Maybe when you are with some people, or all people some of the time, you are helping them up from their unhappiness in some way. Not just by laughing, but by other means. There are so many hurting people. People in physical pain, people in spiritual pain – some wondering why the “things” they worked so hard for, and believed in for so long, did not bring them happiness. They look at you, and see you have many fine things, and perhaps still have your health. And they think – if I could just have what he/she has – good, fine things, health – I would be happy. But you know better – just being healthy in body and having plenty of things does NOT make you happy – at least not at the level you had hoped for. Look at the Biblical Solomon. He had all the things and blessings he could want (yes, God deliberately blessed him!), and still it did not bring him happiness – “vanity, all vanity,” he proclaimed. “Vanity[b] of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 He says it right up front in his treatise, but not until the back end of his life. And then, at the “back end” of your life, there is another generation coming up, arising. And they look to you for wisdom. How to live life. How to be happy. And perhaps they can see no purpose to life. What’s it all for? Why are we here? And you try to explain. But somehow, the big dreams and hopes for life that you had when you were young, that it seems we all have or had when we were young, just didn’t come to pass. Sure, we helped some people here and there – but not the great spiritual harvest we’d hoped for. A plum here, a grape there, sprouting out of the Great Vine some of us know we are attached to and which can bring so much life and joy, peace and happiness. But even that Great Vine knows, and tells us, we could have had so much more. More joy, more peace, more fruit – great large harvests in abundance. But we just – didn’t. Why not? I’m thinking lately, when the “stuff” of life we’d hoped for didn’t come to pass, and our minds were still active, and looking for something to do – and there were immediate needs in front of us – always – fires to put out, “things” to buy or attend to, etc. – we may have just opted to keep searching out the things we were familiar with. Good stuff, cheap. Just different stuff. New stuff. Stuff to keep us occupied, but not necessarily happy. There was the primary stuff to research first as young adults – what to major in at college, what to do for work. What house to buy (usually after who to marry – not so much a “thing” as a “who”). What things would furnish our house or apartment best for our own happiness. And, of course, to impress others or even just express ourselves – we are, after all, creative beings designed for expression and companionship with others, and so we envision sharing our “stuff” and enjoying it with others, and showing off who we are, via our “stuff.“ Then as we bore children, the next generation grew up, and we had to keep on top of all the “kid” things – the stuff of health matters to keep them growing well, the best toys to keep them entertained and educated, the best Summer camps, the best clothing buys, the best schools, the best religious instruction, the “best things”….on and on. Why? Because THESE precious beings we definitely loved, and cared deeply about, and to do our part raising them, we had to stay on top of…”things.” And they learned that “things,” and staying on top of them, were very important. Or…maybe some of them simply learned that things DIDN’T bring satisfaction. Rich in some things, they searched for others. Leave the “keeping on top of – things” to someone else. Someone who is used to doing that, and who is skilled at doing that sort of “thing.” Someone who seems to value those “things.” Now, some of us find ourselves looking back, and thinking – where did the time go? I seem to have spent so much of my life “researching,” shopping for, and buying the best “things” – that is not what I intended! I had much higher intents and purposes for my life. Now, there is the smaller slice of our life’s pie graph left to be lived, and for most of us, we want to live it right – what’s left of it. We want to really taste and enjoy our “piece of the pie.” So….I (we?) find myself asking (I’ll just speak for myself here) – what’s “the next best thing”?

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Love as a Chisel

Doing my church bible study on Ephesians 2, listing the ways we used to be before we were saved by God, and that we were previously children of wrath. I was baptized as an infant and chosen by God and brought up in the faith, so this has always been a little bit difficult for me. I know what I am without God because I frequently act as if I am without God, even though I am not. And I can imagine a previous existence without Him, perhaps in the spirit world, I do not know. But having been brought up in the faith and having believed since I was young, it is difficult for me to identify with those who have once felt distant from God or that they were children of wrath. Filled with, or perhaps even consumed with, sins and lusts of the flesh and mind. Although, I am certainly “indulgent”! Thinking instead, “Gosh, I don’t feel like that at all right now. I feel loved and treasured – a child of God.” God, reminding me why: “Daughter, I am giving you grace despite your indulgence, because I have saved you and made you My own, not because of anything you have done to deserve it.” “But it (Your love) makes me better, right?” Yes, love seems to be a tool He uses in chiseling us into His Image! Strange thought…love as a chisel! But not everything the Master does to mold us into His image is painful :-).

Go to the Source

So I like truth, for the most part. And I like a good bargain. And I don’t like wasting my money. AND, I don’t particularly like being wrong in what I say to other people. The point being, I spend a lot of time researching stuff. Today, I’m tired of it. My phone is acting weird, slow, and my computer has been that way for a long time. So I just laid down to rest and told God that I needed or wanted Him to give me some answers. And He started in! Now I’m not saying He can always point me to the right purchase without me putting in a little research. But when it’s a theological issue and people on either side of the issue are equally devout, and devoted to their side, maybe He is the one I should go to first. You know…the Source! Not that I didn’t quickly ask (right before I started researching :-). But have you ever noticed that when you’re kind of out of options, God is always there with the best one?

Jesus is the primary “game-changer” in life. When Andrew, who was primarily known as Peter’s little brother, but was soon to become the FIRST disciple to be called by Jesus, saw Jesus & heard John the Baptist say, “…this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” he followed the invitation to, “Come & see” – as he passed John the Baptist & followed Jesus to see where He was going & presumably, what He would be doing. As Chris Freeland said in his series, “GameChangers,” Jesus first asked Andrew, who was following Him along with another man, “What do you want?” And when Andrew asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?” Jesus replied, per one translation…”Come & it will become more & more visible to you.” All Andrew really did was to “come & see,” but he never did it alone. He always brought someone with him. And I call that, “See & say!” (Please forgive me, Fisher-Price, for the similarity to the name of your famous toy). “Most of us disqualify ourselves – ‘I am not a pastor, not a scholar, not a writer, not a leader…not big or strong…'” But look at Andrew. He is not mentioned often in scripture, but when he is, he is simply beholding, following & bringing someone along. I’m pretty sure most of us could do that. I can, and I have at times. I am also one of the first to disqualify myself from anything that sounds too big for me. But Jesus is the game-changer. “Jesus is not limited by the things that limit me.” I don’t have to take on His role. All we have to do is believe Him. “If Andrew hadn’t believed, who knows if Peter would have?” – Chris Freeland. Pretty much, I think, “’nuff said.” For now ;-).

There is a song that I adore, called, “How Many Kings?” I took the YouTube link and shortened it, because you can’t click it from here and someone might actually type in the letters to hear the song… It is worth it! http://zq753.qr.ai
But this morning I felt like the Lord was asking me, how many men would die for you, especially before they even knew you, in the hopes that you would love them? His love for us is fierce!

Relax, it’s empty now :-). I got this mug, which I love, years ago after eating at a fine restaurant where the little coffee cup had just the perfectly angled handle for my “dainty” (?) little fingers ;-). And it was also after a Via de Cristo weekend where Pr. Janet Kraatz, Spiritual Director in charge of preaching the Lutheran view of baptism, told us, “When someone asks you when you were saved, tell them ‘from the beginning!'” I debated whether to get the little cup, because I have numerous coffee mugs already (who doesn’t?), and it was at a time when I was trying to cut back on “frivolous” spending. So I decided to ask God, “is this a good purchase for me?” :-). And I have been enjoying it immensely ever since! Apologies for the color in the bottom of the mug. I didn’t feel like interrupting my quiet time just yet to get up and wash it 🙂

“…, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”
I Peter 1:15. There is not another translation I checked, including The Message, that uses any other word but “holy.” I used to picture holy as pious, sinless, really straight-laced! But holy really means set apart, for God’s purposes. When it talks about our conduct, which is the Pray for Me “Day 7” word today :-), it is talking more about a behavior of ours than simply a descriptor of what we are as believers. Yes, our conduct should show that we are set apart, separate for His purposes, and not acting identically to what the Bible refers to as “the world’s” conduct. If we as believers are not salt and light in the midst of a dark world, we are not of much use, are we?! Father, I pray that our conduct would show that we are just a bit different – if not completely an anomaly walking around in this world! Let us live our lives to the glory of Your name and show Your love to everyone we meet. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

The Tower of Babel. No, this is not it. Nope, they didn’t find it :-). And they won’t, because it came tumbling down. And not all on its own, I think God had something to do with that. And why? Well, I think with one language people became too powerful, and they decided to build a tower to reach to God. So they could be on par with Him, probably. “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.”Genesis 11:1. And whenever we get uppity and think we can climb all the way up to heaven, there will be troubles! So thus, we have all the wonderful different nations and nationalities and languages and customs that we have today. Not that they came all at once mind you. But we still have a penchant for trying to work our way up to God, and bring Him down to our level – sometimes by putting ourselves on pedestals, and making Him small. Day 6 is on “Speech,” and the past few Day 6’s have been more on what we say and how we say it – how our speech is to glorify God, and be pure. Today, I picked this verse because, well, I used the others already ;-). Anyway, let’s always remember that God Is Bigger Than. We are not God. We are not bigger than…. He has come down to us in His grace and love for us, in the person of Jesus. He has created all things for Himself, and for us to enjoy in His company and in His way. Because He is our Father, and “Father (truly does) Know Best” :-). Amen!

”He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.” Proverbs 22:11. What is purity of heart? I pondered that for a while, and decided it was to aim to please God and love others, single-mindedly…or, perhaps, single-heartedly! No wonder he would have the king as his friend… the person who did that well would be such a wonderful person! (And by the way, wonderful or not, we already have the King as our friend ;-). My little rhyme for myself for today might help me (us?) to focus on purity of heart, with full single-mindedness toward God: “Lord help me (and all of us) to love You and others, and to be empowered to work and contribute all that I am to all that I can.” 🙂

Note: If you’re concerned about making an impression on somebody, you might miss the meaning of the word love! (1 Cor. 13:5 – “Love seeks not its own …” )

Nope, it’s not Valentines’ Day, or “Galentines'” – just a cold day in January, when the “Pray for Me” book focus for our students happens to be love. “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.” Psalms 63:3 (“A Psalm of David when he was is in the wilderness of Judah.) And so I chose God’s love today. It’s not always easy to let ourselves believe, or feel God’s love, but it is there for us. Some people are hindered by trust issues, some by belief issues more in their head than their heart. But when you see for yourself the good that God wills toward you, especially as believers, you will know it… And then hopefully trust it, and feel it. It is what we all long for. If only we had not been deceived by the Enemy into thinking He was mad at us all the time! Lord, help our young ones, our students, our loved ones and ourselves…that we may know the surpassing love of God in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 3:16) Amen!

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