Called to be me.

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. ~Eph 4:11 (CEB)

A couple years ago, I picked up my daughter from a mission trip with her youth group. As we gathered her things to go I told her that every time I pick her up from a mission trip someone tells me “Your daughter is a good digger”. She looked at me with all seriousness and said, “Well, when there is a lot you don’t know how to do, you find what you can do and do it well.” In one heart beat I went from laughing with my daughter to being proud of her. We could all do well to remember this in life. “Find what we can do and do it well.”

It is humbling when I look around at all the great things people seem to be doing. Always before me I can see what I don’t do well. But instead of focusing on what others are doing and what I seem unable to do, I need to remember that God doesn’t call me to what others do well. He calls me to what I can do well through Him who will give me the ability to do His will (Phil 3:14). God calls me to be me. If it is digging holes while others build decks, He will give me the strength to dig those holes. If it is to quietly sit with someone whose heart is broken while others lead thousands to Christ, God will give me the strength needed to hold that dear hand.

Paul addressed the Corinthians about this in the first letter to them, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:4-11 (NRSV)

What God calls me to do is for the common good. He doesn’t call me to a work to make me feel good about myself. Ephesians 4:12 says our ministry is for the building up of the body of Christ. Galatians 5:25-26 reminds me that my work is to be guided by the Holy Spirit and that I am not to become conceited, competitive or envious of what someone else may be called to do. So even though I may think someone else’s work is more glamorous than what I have been called to do, I am to keep my eyes on Him and walk only this road His has given me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the strength You give so that I can be all that I am meant to be. Help me to remember that all work is for the common good and not about me. Amen.

A battle within

Once when Jacob was boiling stew, Esau came in from the field hungry and said to Jacob, “I’m starving! Let me devour some of this red stuff.” That’s why his name is Edom. Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today.” Esau said, “Since I’m going to die anyway, what good is my birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Give me your word today.” And he did. He sold his birthright to Jacob. So Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew. He ate, drank, got up, and left, showing just how little he thought of his birthright. ~Gen. 25:29-34 (CEB)

I always get so mad at Esau when I read this story. How can he be so careless? With no thought for the future he tosses away his birthright for a momentary need. Just because he is hungry. Then I think about my birthright. By simply being born, I too have been given a birthright. Just like Esau I have done nothing to earn my inheritance as a child of God. How often do I turn a blind eye when the hunger pains of this world threaten to tear me in half? How often do I undervalue my inheritance?

Even though Jacob is devious and manipulative, he does desire and see the value of the birthright. He will do whatever it takes to acquire it for his own. He even in the end risks his very life to receive his father’s blessing. I often wonder if this isn’t a fit description of the battle that goes on inside of us. There is the part of us that doesn’t value the grace that we have been given. It is not until we believe that we do not have God’s grace that we begin to do all we must to acquire that grace. Somehow it is a balance in the tension between the two. It is ours simply by being born, but we must seek it as the precious inheritance that it is. We must be willing to give it our all.

Lord, I want all that You have given me. Help me to value Your grace so freely given. May I seek it this day as the precious gift that it is. For without it I am nothing. Amen.

What’s the point of it all

What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.~Ecc3:9-15 (CEB)

What is the point of it all? I have been reading Ecclesiastes so I know that I am not the only person to ponder this question. Earlier in Chapter 3 the author talks about how there is a time for every season in life. A time to be born… a time to die… There are times in my life that everything seems to be going well. God gives me these times so that I can show the world how to live a life of blessings while still fully in tune with God. Other times I find life miserable and full of difficulties. God has allowed these hard times so that I can show the world how great our God is and that being His child brings great peace and joy despite hardship.

It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of life compared to others’. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.… Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16–17) When I come into God’s presence He gives me peace and joy that surpasses it all. When I read the Bible it helps me to keep my focus on Him and not my current situation.

So what is the point of life here on earth, whatever moment I find myself in? The point of my life is to bring Him Glory. From the coffee break I take on my porch swing, to the words I say to a friend, to the boundaries I set for my kids and the walks I take with my husband, it should all point to Him. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for Gods glory. “ ~1Cor 10:31 (CEB)

May my life this day Lord, point to Your glory. From the words I speak to the actions I take may it all be done to reflect Your love and grace in my life. Amen.

A mosaic piece of work

 

A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. ~Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

I once was lost. Even though I had grown up in a Christian home, brought up in church and believed in God with my whole heart I still found myself lost one day. Life’s circumstances can do that sometimes. Whether it is bad choices or not paying attention we can find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be. After a 3 year journey, I began to realize it has not been so much my obedience to do His will that God had in His plans when He came after me. He wanted to heal my broken heart along the way. Who knew?

Today I am a mosaic pieced back together by the Master Creator. So often we think when something has been shattered that there is no value left. When I allowed God to mend what I had deemed beyond repair, I found that there could still be beauty. It is a different kind of beauty. I am not what I once was, but with the Light shining through me, I am more beautiful than even before my heart was shattered. Not only am I whole again but I find that I still have value in God’s eyes.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for seeking me, for relentlessly pursuing me. I thank you for going into the depths to pull me out. You not only sought me out, You healed me. May I always remember to be thankful. Amen.

Extending God’s Grace

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 us, “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 everyday. 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. My I extend the same grace that You have given me. Amen.

Mountain top

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 mountain top 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 mountain top experiences and for everyday life. Help me to enjoy all the paths of life that you have laid out for me. Amen.

God given instincts

The commandment is a lamp and instruction a light; corrective teaching is the path of life. ~Proverbs 6:23

One day my dog was barking for all she was worth. I knew that bark. It was the type of bark that told me she had found some creature. When my son checked the situation out he found that it was a red eared glider, a turtle whose shell was at least 18 inches long, bigger than what we were used to seeing migrate out of the small lake in our subdivision.

Early spring is the time of year turtles are restless from their winter “hibernation”. This restlessness puts turtles in places they don’t belong. Sometimes it is just in the wrong back yard or in a neighborhood street. Sometimes their restlessness finds them on a busy highway which for many that try to cross means death. That restlessness drives them to be places that are not safe for turtles.

I can get restless like those turtles. Despite barking dogs, unknown territory and even dangerous circumstances I can feel driven to go places that I know I should not go. Against the instincts God has placed deep within me I can push past the natural boundaries He would have in place for me.

The good news is God’s word says, “I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go. I’ll advise you and keep My eye on you” (Psalms 32:8) If I allow God’s word to penetrate deep within this hard shell of mine, I only have to listen to the guidance He has placed within me and I can find my way home, away from the busy highways which are sure death for me, back to the beautiful pond He has provided for me. I just need to listen to my God given instincts.

May I ever be listening for Your guidance that you have placed within me. May I nurture this knowledge everyday so that I can avoid the dangers of living. Amen.

Know that I am God

Be still, and know that I am God  ~Psalm 46:10a (ASV)

I have always been drawn to this verse. Maybe it is because I have such a hard time being still so I am drawn to the words “be still” like a magnet. Somehow even though I have a hard time sitting still my soul knows this is something I need in my everyday life, stillness. It is not enough to just carry this verse longingly in my heart. Being still isn’t the whole picture. The next phrase says, “and know I am God.” Do I take the time to know God and acknowledge Him? When I rush from one thing to another I crowd out that still small voice that tries to direct my steps. I need to learn to be quiet on the inside and stay in that peaceful state so that I can readily hear God’s voice.  Only when I spend time daily in the Word can I get to know Him enough to learn to hear that still small voice.

I love to compare scriptures. In the CEB version it says, “That’s enough! Now know that I am God!” Stated this way it is like a command from God to wake up and pay attention. God is like that. Sometimes His presence is quiet and subtle making me look up to see Him. Other times He does things to get my attention. The best description for this is to compare morning skies. Some mornings the light sneaks in with varying shades of soft colors gently changing from one to the other and growing in brightness. It is easy to overlook its beauty on this type of a morning unless I make it my practice to look up. Other mornings the sky is ablaze with reds and golds so bright it would be hard to miss the splendor splashed across the sky no matter how busy I am. God is like that in my life.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the quiet times when you Spirit whispers love to my heart guiding my steps. I also thank you for the times that you have blazed in, leaving no doubt and waking me up to Your presence in my life. Amen.

Faith, love in action

My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful. ~James2 14-18(CEB)

Claiming that I believe in God doesn’t bring anyone out of the darkness. Feeling bad that there are hungry people in the world does nothing to put food in their bellies. It is easy to read the Bible, but what is difficult is putting what I have read into practice. In Matt 25:42-42 it says “I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.” These are not words I want to hear directed to me by Christ. I might be tempted to say but Lord, when did I see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick or in prison? Then He will answer, “I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.”(Matt 25:45)  He doesn’t say, anything about my “seeing” these needs. He just commands that I meet the needs.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians “If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever” (1Cor 13:1-3).

How can I claim faith if I lack action? Love is that action. Love is the response to the faith I claim in Christ. The question of love to Peter was not just for Peter, it is for me too. “Do you love Me?”, Christ asks. It is not just a simple answer of “Yes, Lord, I love You.” He asks me to put my love in action. He says to me, “Take care of my sheep” (John 21:16).

Again I find myself Lord, convicted of Your words. Help me this day to show my love for You to those I meet, even if it means that I have to go out of my comfort zones to find those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick or in prison. May I be Your hands and feet. May I be love in action. Amen.

Joy in the moment

A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones ~Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

Looking at the big picture can seem overwhelming sometimes. Too many times I forget to live in the moment. I see the bigger picture looming ahead of me and I don’t see my son’s little dances, don’t feel my daughter’s hugs or appreciate my husband sitting on the porch swing with me. I forget to smell the jasmine, to see my blooming flowers or my vegetable garden grow. I forget to laugh at my dog as she takes serious her task of chasing the rabbits. I forget to listen to the bird’s songs or listen as the wind rustles the leaves.

Seeing things piece by piece and searching for the joy in the moment helps to lighten my day. When I get to worrying about all the things that I have no power to fix at this moment, those things that are out of my control, I allow those things to steal the simple joys from my heart. Missing out on these simple things soon finds my spirit hurting.

God doesn’t want me to live with the weight of the world on my shoulders. He has put things in my path to help me enjoy life. He created flowers and bird songs for my enjoyment. He gave me my family for comfort and love. May I remember each day to appreciate all that he has blessed me with down to the simplest and smallest of details.

Heavenly Father, help me to remember to stop and smell the flowers, to hear the birds sing, to hug my family. May I not take any of these joys for granted. May they ever be fresh on my heart. Amen.

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