Anchored in love

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. ~Matthew 10:19-20 (RSV)

When I am anxious about some upcoming event I have a tendency to over prepare. If I find myself needing to defend myself, I wonder how to respond.  Turmoil causes me to lose confidence and creates a debilitating self-conscious.

In Matthew 10 I find words from Jesus telling me to not worry about what I should say and to trust that when a moment arises that He will send the words and the wisdom that I will need. It is not the words I seek to express myself that are important but that I remain deeply anchored in Jesus’ love, secure about being a child of God and remembering that I am here for His ultimate plans. When my heart is connected to Jesus, I can be assured that I will have the words when I need to speak.

Anxiousness is a sign of distrust. If I can trust God to be there for me in all my moments, than I will not over prepare. Over preparing does not make the situation any better. Over preparing makes me rely on myself. When I rely on self it just tends to cause me to lose my confidence because I have taken my sights off God. What a good reminder that as long as I put God’s words in my heart I will find the wisdom I need when I need it. Security is never in self. Security is found through Jesus.

Heavenly Father, help me to keep my eyes on You as I go about the work that needs to be done today. May I find through Jesus the confidence I need to face this and every day. Amen.

The vast unknown

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD. ~Jer. 29:11-14 (CEB)

I have a need to know. I need to have a plan. If you were to list my strengths, organizing and planning would be attributes that would make the list. As often happens, sometimes our strengths are also our weaknesses.

I like to plan and organize because it gives me a secure feeling of where I am going. Sometimes it even comforts me as I look back and can see where I have been. But when people ask me “what is next” when it comes to God’s call on my life I have to say…. “I have no idea”. I have no plan. I do not know what is coming next.

There is no information for me to neatly analyze and organize.

There.   Is.   Just.  The.   Vast…     UNKNOWN.

Here I realize that God does not want me relying on my self. If I knew what God’s big picture was for my life I soon would be busy, head down with calendar in hand, planning out all the steps that would get me there. I would stop looking up. There would be no trust.

Instead of giving me a big picture, God whispers in my ear, “Trust Me“. To trust God I must take my eyes off of the things I keep myself busy analyzing and organizing so that I can look up to see what is going to be the next step. In the unknown, I HAVE to trust God. With a plan, the trust lies on me. If the plan is with me I am limited to my abilities and knowledge. With me I am bound to fail. If the plan is with God, there is a vast wealth of ability and knowledge. With God…. all things are possible. Even if the possibilities are yet, a vast unknown.

Thank You Heavenly Father for walking with me hand in hand through the vast unknowns of life. Help me keep my eyes on Your and my ears open to hear You whisper… “This is the way you should go.” Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the past behind

The LORD said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of earth will be blessed because of you.” Abram left just as the LORD told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. ~Genesis 12:1-4 (CEB)
Abram was asked by God to leave everything he had ever known. His family’s customs, livelihood, and close connections.  There are times that God asks of us to leave behind all that we have known before. Maybe the place in life that we are at is not good for us and God wants to take us out of the land of Ur into something better.Yes, it means leaving all we have ever known behind. Yes, it means learning new skills. Yes, it even means sometimes that we will need to leave people behind as we pursue a new life, a life of promise.God wants us to live in a land full of promise and hope. The road to the promise land may seem long. It may seem that He asks the impossible sometimes. Phil 4:13 says, “I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.”Abram didn’t know what he was moving toward. He just knew that God had a plan, a plan for good not for harm. Sometimes we have to move forward knowing that God loves us and wants us to have a better life. He never wants harm to come to us, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”I want faith like Abram. I want to step out in the direction that God has for me believing that what He has for me is better than what I am leaving behind.

Heavenly Father, help my faith to grow. I thank you for examples in the Bible that help me to understand Your will for my own life. I claim the promise you have for me in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deep wounds

When I kept quiet, my bones wore out; I was groaning all day long— every day, every night!—  because your hand was heavy upon me. My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. So I admitted my sin to you; I didn’t conceal my guilt. “I’ll confess my sins to the LORD, ” is what I said. Then you removed the guilt of my sin.  That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times, so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.~ Psalm 32:3-6 (CEB)

I fell. It was storming and wet and I had to get gas. While I was pumping gas, and because I can’t just stand there waiting for my car to fill up with gas, I thought I would move my bag from the trunk to the front passenger seat while I was under some protection. That way when I got home I could just dash in the door with everything. As I stepped over the hose, somehow my foot got tangled and with the lack of traction due to oil and water, I fell with all my weight landing on my knee. To stand and walk did not cause great pain but bending my knee hurt. Taking ibuprofen seemed to reduce the swelling and I seemed to just be black and blue with no major injury.

Because it is just a big ugly bruise, I think it is funny. It makes a good story. One minute I am walking, the next moment, I find myself looking at the underneath side of my car. I kind of enjoyed showing the bruise off to my family as it went through a rainbow of colors. There is no real damage done. The damage is only on the surface and over time it will fade away.

A couple years ago, I injured myself running. It wasn’t so funny. I was embarrassed to have allowed the injury to happen. I should have known better. I should not have let it happen. So I felt. I was afraid that I would never run again. I hated to talk about it. If you looked at my leg you couldn’t see that there was anything wrong. It just hurt. Bad. After a few days I realized that I was not getting better and went to see a physical therapist that sees people at a local running shop. He told me to continue with heat, ice, stretching and ibuprofen. After a week of doing this he said I could try a 3 mile run on flat ground.

One week later, after doing exactly what I had been told I went off for a light run. It was a little sore but no major pain so I finished running the three miles. As the day went on my leg began to hurt more and more. Two day later my leg and ankle began to swell. I couldn’t hide the fact any longer that something serious was going on. This situation had become bigger than me.

It took four months for my leg to heal enough to no longer limp when I walked. I began to run again but the fear of injuring my leg again was constantly in my thoughts. Still I feel twinges in the tendon that I pulled below me knee and I remember the hobbling pain I lived with day and night. The memory of this injury will always be with me. Re-injuring the tendon again will always be a possibility. My leg will never be the same.

When life injures me, I find myself in a similar situation. The surface wounds though painful are easy to share, talk about and even get a good laugh. But the deep really painful hurts that no one sees are harder to talk about. Often it is frightening. Many times it is embarrassing and I think I should have known better than to let myself get into that situation. Sometimes it hurts too much to move to go get the help that I need. Even after I begin to heal the fear of re-injury is ever present. Some hurts are life changing.

There comes a moment when you know this injury has become bigger than you. God has put us in community for our healing. James 5:14-16 says “If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”

Turning to God in our pain will help direct us to a community for our healing. When we talk with others about what is wrong in our life we find that we are not alone in our pain; we find that there are sympathetic people to our plight and we find that we are not the only ones in this situation. We find that there are people who have been through what we have been through and they survived. In sharing our stories we give each other hope. Hope for the journey.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for community. I thank you for fellow sojourners on this journey called life. I thank You for those whom You have sent to walk with me along the way providing hope. May I always be willing to shine a light for others so that their travels can continue always toward You. Amen.

Who’s in the driver seat

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.~Jer 29:11-13 (CEB)While I was using the navigation app on my phone I missed an important turn. Right after I took  a right I didn’t realize my phone was telling me to stay right for another turn. When I realized what the app wanted me to do, it was too late to make the turn. My phone could have said, “Well that’s it. Since you are too stupid to understand what I am telling you, I am going to leave you to figure out what you need to do next.” No, my phone didn’t ridicule me or berate me for being confused. It simple recalculated the road to adjust to where I was at the  moment, leading me to other roads that ultimately got me to my intended destination.

I have seen the Holy Spirit working in my life in the same way. When I think I know the path that I am supposed to be on but then realize that I am lost and confused, I do not find myself abandoned by the Holy Spirit. No. I cannot mess up God’s plan for my life. When I take a wrong path the Holy Spirit simply  recalculates  to adjust to where I am at the moment, continuing to lead me in the way I need to go. Now I could be upset with the detour I have taken or I can sit back and calmly realize that God is still in control of my life. His plan for me includes those times that I take back over the direction I am headed.

There are no words to match the feelings that well up inside me when I realize that there is NOTHING I can do to mess up my God-given-destiny. Despite myself, God will get me where He plans for me to be. That’s kinda humbling.

Father  in heaven, thank You for never leaving me where I am at but taking me on to what You have planned for me. Amen.

I know who holds tomorrow

 

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.~ Phil 4:4-7 (NRSV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always” doesn’t end with,”unless you are doing something really important”. No, it’s a command, “rejoice always”. When I am consumed by my problems – my family, my job, my life, I am actually conveying the belief that my circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words I am saying that I have the right to disobey God’s command because of the magnitude of my responsibilities. My focus on my problems puts my problems first. This is a form of idolatry- taking my focus away from God.

Following the command to rejoice always is the command to not worry. Worry implies that I do not trust God with my circumstances. Is not the God who flung the stars into space not big enough to handle my problems? Is not the God who moves continents not strong enough to fix my situation? Is not the God who sent His only son into the world to die on a cross for my sins not loving enough to hear my prayers?

Being stressed says that what I am involved in merits my impatience, lack of grace toward others or my tight grip on control. Worry and stress say that I have forgotten that it is really not about me. God has a big picture and I am a part of it. The picture isn’t about me. The picture is God’s.

The chorus from a song has been running through my mind today, ” There are things about tomorrow That I don’t seem to understand But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.” So what do I gain from putting God first and trusting Him to take care of my tomorrows? Verse seven says that the peace that passes all understanding will guard my heart and mind.

No matter how hard I try to control the situation, I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. I do know, because the Bible tells me, that I am to always rejoice, to give thanks in every situation and to not worry. I also know that the One who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).

Heavenly Father, may I live this day trusting that you hold all my tomorrows. When feelings of anxiety creep back in, may that be my signal that I have lost my focus reminding me to look back to you. 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 to see yourself in God’s eyes

You are from God, little children, and you have defeated these people because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~1 John 4:4

It is so easy to judge ourselves by what others think of us. I often forget that my true value is through God’s eyes. My value is not from the people who surround me. If I base my significance on what others think I can be lifted up as high as the sky by their praise or I can find myself plummeting quickly be their disapproval. This creates such a roller-coaster effect on my emotions and is very dangerous to my well-being.

Instead I need to look in the Bible to find my self-worth. Who does the Bible say I am? If I look through the Bible I can find many references. One of my favorite verses on “who I am in Christ” comes from Romans 5:1 “Because of Christ and His redemption, I am completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God. I am totally accepted by God. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” My favorite part of that verse is that I am accepted by God, just as I am. No, I am not perfect. Whether I am at my best or at my worst I am still totally accepted by God. That is not always true of fellow humans. If I based my significance on others approval I begin to fear rejection. My fear of rejection can begin to control me and my self-worth. My dependence on others for value brings bondage and darkness.

God doesn’t want us living in darkness so He sent Jesus into the world to seek out those who find themselves in bondage. He came to speak truths to our heart about God’s love and acceptance. Taking this truth into our heart brings freedom and joy. I want to live in the light where freedom from bondage of what others think of me exists. I want joy in my life so I hold a simple truth in my heart, “I am a beloved child of God” (Gal 4:7). The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear (Psalm 27:1)

May I live securely in Your love and acceptance of me oh Lord. Help me this day to remember that my relationship with You is what matters above all others opinions. Hide deep in my heart Your truths of who I am through You. Amen.

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.

Real freedom

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus. ~Luke 5:1-11 (CEB)

“We need to look for what we dismiss and what we disdain. Look at what we’ve spent our whole life avoiding. We don’t want to look unsuccessful. That’s our shadow. I can see why my father, Francis, intentionally countered the way the West was moving. He moved entirely into the shadow self and said, ‘Here is where I will rejoice.’ I will delight in nonpower, nonaggression, nondomination, nonpleasure, nonwealth and nonsuccess. He lived so close to the bottom of things that he could never fall very far. Now that is freedom! ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Almighty God, as You have sent Jesus to be for me the light and truth, send now Your spirit upon me to grant me grace and strength to follow in His footsteps this day. Amen.

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