Bigger than me

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I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. ~Philippians 3:14
Once again I find myself sitting in a “bigger than me” problem. It’s enormous. I want to say I am dealing with it beautifully. I can’t. Last night as I struggled to calm my mind down enough to sleep, I felt God’s reminder that the problem didn’t occur in one day. It would also take “time” to correct things. Somehow I managed to finally get to sleep.

Upon waking the panic crept back in. Since I obviously was not going to sleep anymore I picked up my phone to see if the blog I scheduled a few days back posted correctly today. If I had been in a laughing mood I would have laughed out loud. The post that I had written several days before was on anxiety. God’s way of preparing a message that He knew I needed to hear today. When I wrote the blog I was just reflecting. Today I needed the reminder to take each day at a time.

So today I am just practicing my breathing skills, trying to wait on God’s wisdom and I am taking to heart once again that I CAN endure all things through Christ who gives me strength. I have no great wisdom today. I am just an ordinary woman just trying to take life one day at a time. Breath by breath.

With every breath of air I take this day Lord, may I be reminded that Your Spirit lives in me. I know that You are bigger than my problems and that You in time will reveal the wisdom I need. I thank You for the strength you hide in me to endure each day. Amen.

Extending grace

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For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; ~Romans 3:23 (CEB) Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brothers or sisters eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, Let me take the splinter out of your eye, when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brothers or sisters eye. ~Matthew 7:1-5 (CEB)

A church I drive by often posted on its sign for a few weeks, “Don’t judge others by how they sin differently”. This is a very thought-provoking statement. As a human, it is easy to categorize “sins” as some not so bad and others as horrible. It is human nature to say, “Well I have messed up, but at least I am not as bad as the person next to me.” Hm, makes me think of a certain Pharisee. But God’s view of things is different. In God’s eyes, a sin is a sin. My little white lie is as bad as stealing. My sin of half-truths is as bad as murder. What about sins of omission? In God’s eyes, I am not any better than anyone else who sins. This is very humbling.

So what am I to do with this knowledge? Am I to feel worse about myself? No, I think I need to take this knowledge and look at others differently. When I look at others I need to remember that we have ALL sinned. This is one of those truths from the Bible that I really struggle with. But Romans 22 tells me, “Gods righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction.” We are all on equal ground with God. I am no worse or better than anyone else. Romans 3:24 tells, “all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.”

It is not by my own strength that I gain my righteousness. I am thankful for the grace that God gives me every day. I need to follow Jesus’ lead and extend grace to others. I don’t know what struggles each individual has gone through to put them where they are in life. Only God has this knowledge and the Bible tells me that God alone should judge.

Heavenly Father, give me Your heart as I walk this road with other people. May I extend the same grace that You have given me. Amen.

Mountaintop

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Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, Lord, it’s good that were here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” ~Matthew 17:1-4 (CEB)

Every vacation must come to an end. Each good moment cannot last forever. Life is like that. As we say goodbye to the family we traveled so far to visit, the eleven hour drive home feels like such a letdown after all the excitement of visiting with family and daily exploration trips. Now we have the mundane time of clicking off the miles ready to be home and yet not ready to be back in our everyday lives. “Let’s just stay longer,” my son says. But the real world pulls on us and home we must go.

My son’s request reminds me of Peter, on top of that mountain with James and John when Jesus was transformed in front of them. When he shared this awesome moment with Jesus and his closest friends he didn’t want to leave either. He wanted to stay in that moment. Jesus’ silence to Peter’s request reminds us of the obvious, they couldn’t stay up there and neither can we.

There is work for me to do, responsibilities that need my attention, additional places that I must go.  No matter how much I long to stay, I must come down from this mountain. I must experience other parts of life as well. Through good times and bad, I know that Jesus is traveling with me down the mountain, through the valleys and back to the mountaintop again. The cycle of life continues on but my comfort is knowing that Jesus travels these roads with me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for mountaintop experiences and for everyday life. Help me to enjoy all the paths of life that you have laid out for me. Amen.

Be strong! Don’t fear!

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For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7 (NRSV)

I have never really thought before about fear being a spirit. It certainly can influence me. Fear keeps me from doing a lot of things. Fear makes me realize my limitations, my ignorance and all my shortcomings and that there are so many. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells me that these feelings are not from God. Instead, God gives me a spirit of power, a spirit of love and a spirit of discipline. From Romans 8:15 I learn that fear leads to slavery and bondage. Paul wrote, “You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as His children. With this Spirit, we cry, Abba, Father.” As a child of God my Father wants me to live in freedom knowing He has given me strength and power to overcome my fears.

“Say to those who are panicking: Be strong! Don’t fear! Here’s your God, coming with vengeance; with divine retribution God will come to save you” (Isaiah 35:4) “Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) “I am the LORD your God, who grasps your strong hand, who says to you, Don’t fear; I will help you.”(Isaiah 41:13)

So, I am empowered because “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.” (Psalms 46:1-3) No matter that my life may feel at times that it is crumbling around me, God wants me to stand strong. Even though I feel that I am overwhelmed and that I am drowning, God has His hand out to grasp me and to keep me from going under. So I should not trust my “feelings”. I should not be afraid. This is a discipline that God wants me to learn. He says these words throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is a message that He has repeated over and over again. He says to all of us “Do Not Be Afraid”.

Lord, I know that the spirit of fear is not from you. Help me to use the spirits of power and discipline to stand strong in times of trial. Amen.

He leads me beside still waters

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He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; ~Psalms 23:2 (CEB)

I am about to be in trouble when I start saying things like “there is just so much of me to go around”. This little flag should be a warning to me that I am close to overload. With this little comment, I am saying that I realize that I have limits and I have reached them. Often I say this ignoring the red flag that should otherwise help me. I say it in exasperation but it is a choice that I make when I continue on past my limits.

Other flags of warning are physical pains that start to creep in. It might be in the form of sickness, shortness of breath, maybe things get so out of control that I begin to experience worse symptoms like tightness in my chest. God doesn’t want us to live on overload. He made us needing times of rest. God viewed our need for rest as so important that he listed it in the Ten Commandments: “Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the LORD your God commanded: Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Don’t do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your oxen or donkeys or any of your animals, or the immigrant who is living among you—so that your male and female servants can rest just like you.” (Duet 5:12-14)

Our innate need for rest is the reason that God created “grassy meadows” with trickling streams. I have learned for my health and over all well-being I need moments to sit on my porch swing, smelling the jasmine as it wafts around me like a security blanket while the birds serenade me with their songs. I have to remember that I need in my day those quiet times for recharging and gathering of strength.

Thank you Heavenly Father for knowing me so well that You know my need for rest even when I don’t recognize it myself. Thank you for leading me beside still waters and giving me peace. Amen.

Betrayed by a friend

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It’s not an enemy that is insulting me— I could handle that. It’s not someone who hates me who is exalted over me— I could hide from them. No. It’s you, my equal, my close companion, my good friend! ~Psalm 55:12-13 (CEB)

There is nothing worse in the world than to be betrayed by a friend. A friend, a close friend is someone you trust, someone you expect to be there for you in good times and bad. No one can hurt you more than a dear friend. When you have been betrayed by a friend the hurt goes so deep that you feel like you could never trust anyone ever again. You feel so alone with your feelings of hurt and betrayal. No one could ever know what you are going through.

But you are not alone. Jesus was sold out by a kiss. His betrayal led him to the cross. Peter, one of his closest friends, denied him not just once but three times. All the disciples fled in fear. Jesus was left alone. At the moment he needed a friend the most he found himself without even the dearest friends. They were all gone.

I don’t think I have ever been in a place where I have felt such complete abandonment. I have felt the sting of losing a friend that I thought I could trust but once the pain subsided some I realize that I was not as alone as I thought. But for Jesus, there was no one. The hardest thing for me about this story of betrayal and abandonment is that Jesus foreknew what was to come. He did not walk into this situation blindly. He chose to die on the cross to save me even when those dearest to him had left him to fend for himself. If I had been in his shoes I imagine I would have said well if even my closest friends can’t appreciate what I am about to do for the world then why bother! But thankfully I am not the Messiah.

It brings great comfort to me when I realize that there is nothing in the world that Jesus hasn’t been through. If I need an understanding ear he is the best choice. Jesus will never abandon me. Romans 8: 38-39 says, “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” There is NOTHING that can separate me from the love of God. Even though I might find myself alone, Jesus will always be with me. The Bible tells me so.

I am thankful that I have a friend in You Jesus. There is nothing that I go through that You have not also been through as well. I know I can trust You and turn to You for guidance in all I do this day. Amen

At someone’s mercy

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But you, my Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy; you are very patient and full of faithful love. ~Psalm 86:15 (CEB)

There have been times that I have found myself in a place where I have had to rely on someone’s mercy for my basic needs. I have found myself relying on someone to provide a place for my stuff, food to eat and a space to lay my head for sleep. It can be awkward and uncomfortable being left to someone else’s discretion for meeting these basic needs. I may not get to eat the type of food I like to eat. I may have to share a small space with my whole family that normally would accommodate just one. There may be no guarantee of when I will get to take a shower and even then I may be rushed through it because others need to use the same bathroom. This can cause moments of discomfort when I am hungry, tired or frustrated at different ways of doing things.

A recent experience with this has had me thinking about the homeless families who struggle with finding a space to put their stuff and who find themselves at the mercies of others. Unlike my circumstances where I was simply visiting family for a short time where the minor discomforts were countered with joyous times, there are families who have found themselves at others mercies because of tragedy. Unlike my situation, they don’t know the end of their time of depending on someone else to provide for their needs. There are no guarantees that they will be given the basics of food and space.

It can be easy to blame someone for their circumstances and to look the other way. It is easy to say, “Well they did this to themselves so I am resolved of any responsibility.” The Bible has a lot to say about mercy and that we are to be hospitable. But it is also easy to dismiss a “group” of people. It is harder when I come into contact with individuals and learn about their circumstances. It is hard once I get to know someone not to have compassion.

Compassion is having God’s heart to look past someone’s faults or how they got into their circumstances yet loving them enough to show them mercy. Mercy could be the shot in the arm that someone needed to rise above their circumstances. Being filled with God’s patience and faithful love I can make a difference in an individual life. I may never change the masses but I may be called to serve in an individual life.

Heavenly Father, when opportunities arise to serve, may I be Your love and mercy. I thank You for those who have shown mercy and compassion to me. Amen.

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