Know Him and He will keep your way straight

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEB)

 

Oh, here we go, taking self out of the picture again. Trust in God, not me. Rely on His intelligence, not mine. But that isn’t all. The only self that should still be in the picture is in the form of self-control and self-discipline. These help establish boundaries and boundaries help us live a purposeful life that can side step most carelessness.

Knowing God’s word intimately helps me to understand and know what boundaries are important to keep my path through life straight and help keep getting lost down to a minimum. I also need to learn to give myself space on this path, margins that allow for a little weaving between the ditches of life.  When I work in needed space in my life, it is like padding for the bumps (stress) in the road that are bound to show up from time to time. If I do not work in extra space (time) into my schedule then when I swerve because of a bump then before I know what happens I end up in a ditch!

For me sometimes “padding” means not being so hard on myself when life happens. Those things that are out of my control are going to happen and I just need to roll with those bumps, shake myself off and stick to the path God has laid out for me. “Padding” also means for me trust in God to see me through all situations. From my children’s welfare, to the roof on my house, I need to be assured that God has my back. Finally, “padding” comes in the form of reading God’s word so that I can know and understand what God’s path is for me.

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your word where I can learn what boundaries are good for my life. Help me put Your word deep in my heart so that it will be well padded for all the bumps that life brings. Amen.

Made with love

God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. ~Genesis 1:27-31

My son came home from his last day of classes. He couldn’t wait to show me the sock monkey he has been laboring over for so very long. Proudly he pulls the sock monkey out and presents him with all grander and pomp. “See mom, here he is. He may be a little funny looking, but he was made with LOVE!!” He was right, it was a little funny looking but he was so proud of that sock monkey he had created himself.

As I look at that sock monkey that sits in a place of honor in my living room, my heart can’t help but trip a little at its crooked smile and wonky ears. The monkey’s stitches show and we haven’t gotten around to finishing up his arms but that doesn’t diminish my son’s love for this monkey.

So often I notice my own stiches showing, my crooked smile, eyes that aren’t the same size. I know all the areas that are yet to be finished. Despite all that is wrong with me, I have a Creator in heaven that looks down with love and says, “I know she may be a little funny looking and she still has some parts that need to be worked on, but I made her with LOVE!!”

Lord, help me rest in Your assurance that I have been made with love. You call me good, supremely good with my stitches showing, my crooked smile and areas that still need some work. May I ever be grateful for the grace You extend to me. Amen

Solidarity in Weakness

Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means “to suffer with.” It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty … such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others. ~Henir Nouwen

The Cup of Life

When the mother of James and John asks Jesus to give her sons a special place in his Kingdom, Jesus responds,  “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?”  (Matthew 20:22).   “Can we drink the cup?” is the most challenging and radical question we can ask ourselves.  The cup is the cup of life, full of sorrows and joys.  Can we hold our cups and claim them as our own?  Can we lift our cups to offer  blessings to others, and can we drink our cups to the bottom as cups that bring us salvation?

Keeping this question alive in us is one of the most demanding spiritual exercises we can practice.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Shelter in the storm

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a hiding place from the storm, a shade from the heat. When the breath of tyrants is like a winter storm. ~ Isaiah 25:4 (CEB)

I attended a meeting one night and the facilitator accused some of us of not being thrilled to be there. He asked us to think of a word that described our feelings. When I thought about how I was feeling, I decided that I felt pretty good and I was glad to be there that night. At the same time I realized that this was not a complete picture of what I was feeling. On the surface I felt happy and peaceful, but underneath the calm I knew there still raged a storm, a storm that may never find rest this side of heaven.

I think this is what was meant about feeling peaceful despite life’s circumstances. Maybe you are in a storm right now. For you maybe your storm is an alcoholic or drug addict in your life. Maybe someone you love is dying of a terminal illness or you are dealing with grief and great loss. Maybe you personally are suffering with drugs, alcohol or a terminal illness. Maybe your financial situation is just about to swallow you whole. Despite the storms that may never cease this side of heaven we find verses in the Bible that tell us that we are not alone. That someone walks along with us in the storm. Isaiah 25:4 even tells me that I can hide away from the storm, find refuge from my distress. How do I find refuge from the storms? In fellowship with other Christians, reading the Word, singing hymns, prayer and worship. These things can provide a shelter and a resting place.

Heavenly Father, thank you for providing a shelter in the storms of life. May I frequently seek out your comfort so that I can continue in Your peace. Amen.

All that I am not

“He said to me, My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness. So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me”~ 2Cor 12:9

So often I get frustrated with all that “I am not”. The key in that is frustration. If I am feeling frustrated then somehow God is not in the situation. Jesus did not come to earth, die on the cross, and rise again on the third day for us to feel frustrated, weak and defeated. He went through all that to give us an inheritance, authority in this life and His strength to rule over our circumstances.

In any area where we stumble, God is ready and willing to provide us with His strength. It seems crazy but in 2 Cor 9:12 it says that we should BRAG about our weaknesses! Why? Not for a false humility but because when we brag about our weaknesses, Christ’s power can rest on us! When we are weak we have God’s perfect strength.

Lord, help me this day to remember that your grace is enough for me. Help me when I get frustrated over my weaknesses and my inabilities to remember that these are God moments made special for me. In my weaknesses I find your powerful strength to get me through the day. Amen.

I am sure about this

“I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Phil 1:6 CEB

When I read my Bible I like to highlight, circle, mark in some way things that stand out to me. What stands out to me in this verse is “I’m sure about this”. I would mark this phrase so that in times when I am feeling unsure about life in general I can skim through my Bible to remind myself of the things I know to be true.

What do I know to be true of the rest of this passage? Paul tells us in Phill 1:6 that God saved us and started a good work in us, and His work in us will come to full completion. As we think about God in work in us, we must remind ourselves that as imperfect as we are, God is perfection. Perfection may seem impossible. It is! God’s plan isn’t perfect because we’re perfect. The plan is perfect because God is the One who designed it. The perfection comes from Him alone.

I am thankful as I try to move on toward perfection that I do not have to rely on my skills alone. God knows me better than I know myself and He has designed and set into action a plan engineered just for me. I don’t have to know the whole plan yet. I just have to take those first steps of faith and follow Him.

Thank you Heavenly Father for sending Jesus into the world bringing You closer to me. As I step through this day may I be sure about this: you will go each step of the way with me if only I ask You to be with me. Help me to keep my eyes on You and not my circumstances. Amen.

The power of thankfulness

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. ~Psalms 34:1 (NRSV)

 

I love to read the Psalms. The range of emotions expressed in Psalms helps me to find words for my own feelings. “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. (Ps 55:6 NRSV) “With the Lord on my side I do not fear” (Ps 118:6a NSRV) But I also find good instruction for daily life there as well. I know that there is so much for me to be grateful for, and I need to focus on it, every single day. In Psalm 50:23 the psalmist says that when we bring thanksgiving as our sacrifice we honor God. The psalmist in Psalm 69:31 says our thank offerings bring him pleasure.

There is power in thankfulness. Not only does it help set us free, but when we pause to give thanks to God for the blessings that we have in all our moments, we actually begin to find more blessings, even more, to be thankful for. Psalm 100 puts this all in perspective: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is He that made us, and we are His; we are his people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the freedom I can find in thankfulness and praise. I know that I can always count on Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness. I know without You, I have nothing. I thank You for the goodness that You show to me every day. Amen.

A little encouragement goes a long way

So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already. ~1 Thessalonians 5:11 (CEB)

 

The power of thankfulness doesn’t just stop with thanking God for the things in our lives it also applies to thanking each other. Sometimes it feels to me that people don’t notice each other anymore. There was a time when we passed people on the street we would say hello. People held doors for each other. Thanked each other for small courtesies like coffee being refilled at a restaurant.

I know that there have been times when I have been guilty of passing people as if I didn’t notice them. Especially if they were strangers to me. I forget how much God has made us for relationships. I forget how much we need each other and those passing moments are important for my well-being as much as the person with whom I have walked right by not noticing.

At a recent retreat that I attended the speaker told us how important hugs were to our well-being. We need 27 hugs a day for our mental and physical health. I think we need to take that a step further to glances toward strangers with a smile and a good morning. To thank yous for small tasks done .Who knows who we might touch in a way that betters their day. Who knows how much it can better our day. A little encouragement goes a long way in adjusting attitudes. That can be some mighty power!

Heavenly Father, I can be so guilty of forgetting the importance of relationships. Please give me courage this day to lift my head and notice the people I come in contact with today.  Help me to make someone else’s day better with my hello or my thank you. May I remember Lord that I am to be your hands and feet to the world even in the smallest of deeds. Amen.

Walk continuously with the Lord

As a young girl, growing up in church, I heard things like “walk continually in the presence of the Lord” and “pray constantly”. I struggled with what these meant knowing too I didn’t want to do it as the Pharisees did… for show. So how was I to do this with a true heart? Henri J. M. Nouwen has addressed this in his book The Living Reminder ~ “To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desires, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by Him. When we walk in the Lord’s presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of Him. This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.” I do think to thank God for the flowers, the decorated trees, bird songs, beautiful sky scapes… but some of the ordinary things slip by me unnoticed. A roof over my head, food on my plate… a bed to sleep in. May I remember this day to be thankful for EVERYTHING. Not just the things that make me gasp in wonder but also the simple reliable things of life.

 

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