Today, I run

If I did want to brag, I wouldn’t make a fool of myself because I’d tell the truth. I’m holding back from bragging so that no one will give me any more credit than what anyone sees or hears about me. I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited. I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 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. Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong. ~2 Cor 12:6-10 (CEB)

When I was eight a tumor was found on my leg. You know how it is, one moment you are going about your normal everyday life, the next you don’t recognize your life anymore. Even though it was determined that the tumor was not cancerous we were still left with a frightening unknown. The doctors couldn’t remove it without injuring my leg. They determined the least harm was to allow it to remain since it was non-cancerous and to reevaluate the situation after I had stopped growing. But we had to always watch and if it changed in any way they would reevaluate the situation sooner.

So I was sent home to live my life. I remember standing in the hall in school wondering how noticeable this bump on my leg was to everyone around me. Even into my teen years I still prayed for the tumor to “magically” disappear. In the evenings when the 700 club would come on and prayers were said for healing I couldn’t help but hold my breath that I just might be healed too. I struggled between guilt about wishing the tumor away and trying to be thankful that I was really okay despite my  feelings. The fear of the tumor “mysteriously changing” into something bad haunted my dreams.

As a result of the tumor, my leg did pain me from time to time and my parents didn’t push me towards activities that greatly strained my leg. Looking back I almost feel that I was discouraged from doing anything that might stress my leg. We had been conditioned to baby it. Although I have always been active there was the underlying fear of injuring that leg.

I lived my life like that for 30 years, always with the shadow of this lump on my leg changing into something frightening but trying to be thankful that I didn’t have cancer. I couldn’t help praying from time to time for the tumor to just go away. What do you do with heartfelt unanswered prayers? Personally I kept putting the issue back on the shelf since I had no answers then taking it back down again from time to time. Then one day something strange happened. I developed this unexplainable desire to run.

For two years I tried to be happy with just hiking and biking and long walks, but the desire to run would not leave. Finally I decided I would actually join a running club and just see how things went. By that May I participated in my first 5K. I felt so elated when I crossed that finish line. First that I didn’t embarrass myself by collapsing but also that I had actually managed to do what I thought I would never be able to do. Run.

I often think of Paul in the Bible. His words often speak straight to my heart. This tumor was just one of many thorns that God has not removed from my life.  In the 18 months that I have run there have been so many life lessons I have learned. First it was struggling through those beginning miles about endurance and determination and that it is still okay to have dreams and go after them. I have learned that life is so much like running. There is pain. You have to learn what to work through and what to avoid. I have learned that sometimes it is frightening and overwhelming, but the rewards in the end are great. God did not remove this tumor, though I was faithful in prayer. He chose to show me through this tumor that with Him, I could conquer a long ingrained fear. His grace really is enough.

I don’t take for granted that I will always be able to run. With each run I am ever aware that it might be my last. But that last is not today. Today, I run.

Heavenly Father, I stand amazed at grace. Instead of removing a deeply ingrained fear, You choose to help me work through it enabling me to be able to dream bigger. I thank You for Your plans for me to prosper. I thank You for giving me hope and a future. Amen.

Simply living

Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. ~Luke 16:10 (CEB)

This came across my computer at a very timely moment. But that isn’t unusual when you go looking for answers to prayers. I have been struggling with the in-between times of things. I know that God has a purpose for me. I know that that purpose is in front of me but that purpose is not right now. I struggle with what I am to do in the waiting. Waiting for the moment I am to carry out what God wants me to do. Waiting is not one of my strengths:

“The largest part of Jesus’ life was hidden.  Jesus lived with his parents in Nazareth, “under their authority” (Luke 2:51), and there “increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:52).  When we think about Jesus we mostly think about his words and miracles, his passion, death, and resurrection, but we should never forget that before all of that Jesus lived a simple, hidden life in a small town, far away from all the great people, great cities, and great events.  Jesus’ hidden life is very important for our own spiritual journeys.  If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life.” ~Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Ok, I know this truth. Living my simple, ordinary unspectacular life is still in God’s will for my life. Being ready for the moments He calls me to service is important but even more important is just living everyday life to the best of my ability. My greatest claim to fame may be how I live my hidden life. It is those moments that only God sees that show our true character. So when we are faithful with the small hidden parts of our lives then He knows we are ready for something bigger.

Heavenly Father, Help me in my times of waiting. Help me in this in-between time of searching for Your will on my life. May I continue to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with You. Amen.

Christian living

 

By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces. This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever lacks these things is shortsighted and blind, forgetting that they were cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eager to confirm your call and election. Do this and you will never ever be lost. In this way you will receive a rich welcome into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. ~2Peter 1:3-11 (CEB)

As a young adult I knew there was more to being a Christian than just being saved. “But what does God require of me? “, I would wonder. It was only after much reading that I began to realize that God does tell us how He wants to live out our Christian lives. Here in 2 Peter 1 we find that God has given us everything we need for life. God gives us faith, morality, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, affection for others and love. All of these are mine to claim. These verses tell me I have these things right now but I need to embrace them and allow them to grow.

To think that I cannot do these things means I have forgotten that I have been washed clean of my past. There was a time that I may not have had self-control, but now I do. There was a time that my morality was on shaky ground, my endurance was not strong and I didn’t always love others as I should. That is the past. Today I can claim anew faith, love, knowledge, morality, endurance, godliness and affection for others. I have been called to these things and as long as I go after these things I will never be lost. Following after what I have been called to enriches my life.

Heavenly Father, Help me claim anew this day the characteristics You have promised me through Your word. Give the Your strength as I  go through this day. May my steps not falter from Your path. Amen.

Dreams

Once the council members heard these words, they were enraged and began to grind their teeth at Stephen. But Stephen, enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. He exclaimed, “Look! I can see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” At this, they shrieked and covered their ears. Together, they charged at him, threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses placed their coats in the care of a young man named Saul. As they battered him with stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, accept my life!” Falling to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died. Saul was in full agreement with Stephen’s murder. Acts 7:54-8:1 (CEB)

Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He wanted to be a clever Jewish Scholar. I bet he even dreamed of it when he was younger. How he would impress others by his obedience to and knowledge of the Law. Maybe at Stephen’s stoning Paul saw his opportunity to make his dreams happen. But dreams are not God given if they come at the cost of the lives of others.

I had a dream, to be a famous artist. Through high school I usually placed in contests that I entered. I even won an award my Freshman year of college, “Freshman with the Most Potential to Succeed.” I am sure my professors felt that by now they would be hearing great things about me in the art world.

Sometimes our childhood dreams are not the best dreams for us. When the disappointment has passed we can discover that God has planted new dreams in our hearts. Dreams that we can be just as passionate about as the dreams we dreamed as youth. It can be hard to let go of the dreams of childhood, but if we can open our hearts to hear God’s will we can find that our dreams have been restored in something better.

Did Paul have to give up his knowledge of the Law? No. But God wanted him to use his knowledge in a different way. His knowledge was never intended to impress others but to win souls for Christ. It was Paul’s passion that God wanted to use.

Heaven Father, I thank You for new dreams you have placed in my heart. May I always be passionate for You. Amen.

Freedom

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ~Romans 6:2

When I say I long for freedom, freedom from what? Freedom from the illusion of control, that if I can just make sure things line-up “just so” nothing bad is going to happen. Freedom from the need to be right all the time, that sometimes I simple just don’t know the answers.  Freedom from the fears of serious things, like being lost, getting sick, the death of a loved one.  Freedom from irrational things like an organized house will bring peace and the feeling of order or that making everyone else happy can by some miracle make me happy.

When I say that “I can’t”, when I see that “God can”, when I take the action of letting Him handle all things, then I can experience freedom. Freedom from the try-hard life where I stay strong, put on a good front and think that I can handle all things my-self. When I trust, allowing my “self” to fall to the ground like a seed, that shell of my self-life can burst allowing the Healers life to burst forth.

New life brings freedom. God’s life allows me to experience a freedom I can never find on my own. I just have to allow myself to be buried with Jesus so that I may also be raised into a new life free of trying hard (and missing the mark).

Heavenly Father, I find myself trying so hard. I want to control everything and know all the answers. Please free my from my “self” so that I may have true life through You. Amen.

Special

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ~1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

“Special”, my daughter says means that you are different. Being different apparently means there is something wrong with you. God didn’t make us all the same. It would be boring if He did! There is no comfort when you tell your children that God has made us all different.

Sometimes I too find myself longing for someone else’s kind of different. It might be nice to be more outgoing maybe even flamboyant. Some days I think it might be nice to not be so contemplative and analytical. Although sometimes I do find myself more outgoing than others I cannot change the personality that is me.

Henri Nouwen in his book, Bread for the Journey says this about temperaments, “Our temperaments – whether flamboyant, phlegmatic, introverted, or extroverted – are quite permanent fixtures of our personalities.  Still, the way we “use” our temperaments on a daily basis can vary greatly.  When we are attentive to the Spirit of God within us, we will gradually learn to put our temperaments in the service of a virtuous life.  Then flamboyancy gives great zeal for the Kingdom, phlegmatism helps to keep an even keel in times of crisis, introversion deepens the contemplative side, and extroversion encourages creative ministry.”

Nouwen goes on to say that we should treat our temperaments as we do gifts that help us deepen our spiritual lives. God made different people because He has different kinds of service. Instead of looking at how it must be nice to be comfortable in a crowd of people, I should use my contemplative nature as God intends, in service to Him.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for my kind of different. May I use who I am in service to You. Amen.

Psam 139

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand —
    when I awake, I am still with you.

I Thank You this day for knowing me inside out, Lord. I treasure Your knowledge of me. I thank You that when I come to the end of this day, You will still be here with me. Amen

Desired

 

When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him. He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. I tell you, I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom.” ~Luke 22:14-16 (CEB)

The good news is that Jesus’ sacrifice of his life replaces the darkness of my life with the purity and light of his own. Jesus calls to us in our darkness because he eagerly desires to be with us. He doesn’t just want our company when we have it all together. He seeks our company even when we aren’t who we should be yet.

Here in Luke 22:14-16, Jesus was confronting the greatest challenge of his life and ministry, and yet he longed for a holy time of sharing and breaking bread. To spend time with those we love is a wonderful gift of healing and strength to all of us. And Jesus also wanted this holy fellowship for comfort and strength for what lay ahead. Even though the disciples do not grasp what is about to happen Jesus still wants to share these moments with them.

I am far from perfect or wise and yet the Savior of the world seeks time with me. This is humbling and awesome. But how can I minister to Christ? What could I offer him? I can offer him my love and adoration. One hard lesson I have learned is that sometimes we are not asked to do but to simply be. How I can minister to the Lord is by simply being at his feet and giving him the time that he wants from me. No wise words needed.

Brennan Manning shares a view of this in his book, Reflections for Ragamuffins:

“Let me share an example of ministering to the Lord in the moment of his adversity. This happened in Chicago’s South Side on Holy Thursday night. I wrote in my journal: ‘The adoration of the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist (communion) began with a heaviness within me. It’s freezing outside; the chapel is cold; my mind is opaque; but foremost is the nagging doubt about my own sincerity’. Earlier in the day I sensed a tug in the direction of non-acceptance, when I read, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ Do I really want to be free? Do I honestly desire a Kingdom lifestyle? What are the real tendencies and desires of my heart? Do I long more than anything else to be God’s man? To serve rather than be served? To pray when I could play? Be slow to speak, Brennan, be cautious to answer… I felt confusion and discouragement tiding within me.

Then a beautiful thing happened. I realized that the only reason I was at prayer was because I wanted to be with my friend. The doubt and uncertainty vanished. I knew I wanted to comfort Jesus in his loneliness and fear in the Garden. I wanted to watch not an hour but the whole night with him. The only words that formed on my lips were those of the little boy Willie-Juan in the fairy tale I had written the year past. Over and over I whispered, ‘I Love you, my friend.’”

Could I sit in the Garden with Jesus during his darkest hour? I would like to think I would. Would I follow him after his arrest? Well, I am not so sure. Would I be like the eleven, hiding after his crucifixion? Probably.  But I have the assurance that despite my lack of bravery, Jesus seeks me just as he sought out the eleven in the upper room after he arose from death. He wants and desires us all.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your Son into the world so that I may have a better understanding of Your Love for me. I thank You for sending Your Son to seek and to find us when we are lost. I thank You that no matter where we are found we are still desirable. Amen.

Praying for boldness

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin. Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief. Sending out the disciples Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching. He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them. ~Mark 6:1-13 (CEB)

How can I in my own life speak with boldness? In 1 Jon 5:14-15 (NIV) it says, “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”

Two situations that I feel most uncomfortable is with a group who have known me most of my life and the other is with a group of people who do not know me at all. But when I feel my weakest God says, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

In Mark chapter 6, even after Jesus didn’t receive a good reception from his home town, he still tells his disciples to go out and to be confident in their work, to go out in boldness. And they did. Verse 16 says “So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.” Their boldness was shown by their works.

After Jesus’ resurrection the disciples were threatened by the government, but instead of backing down when they were told to be silent they prayed, “Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30) So when the disciples felt threatened by the work they were doing their response was to pray. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31)

Christ came into a multicultural world. In a world of many beliefs it might be understandable that the disciples may have been fearful to even mention their faith in Jesus Christ. In a time when loyalty to the official religion often was required, it would have been simpler to go along with the crowd. In such a dangerous time where the promotion of any new religion was perilous, they would have been safer to hide any evidence of faith in Jesus Christ.

Instead of running, conforming or playing it safe the disciples prayed for boldness to speak up about the gospel. They didn’t ask for security, relief from persecution or the demise of the opposition. They asked for boldness to continue in the work that Jesus called them to do.

How often do I even remember to ask for boldness to do God’s will? What difference would it make in my life if I did remember to pray for boldness? When the disciples prayed for boldness they found it gave them the wisdom, the faith and the power to live faithful and effective lives. When I continually pray I find my life transformed from one of “knowing” to one of believing. With believing I find boldness to go about the work of Jesus Christ.

Father in Heaven, whether in groups I am well known or in unfamiliar places I ask for boldness to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. May I not back down when I feel uncomfortable but remember that despite my weakness your glory can shine through. Amen.

Body, soul and spirit

Therefore we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. ~Rom. 6:4-11 (CEB)

As a believer I have all I need for a  life in Christ. If I don’t know it I can’t experience the reality of it.

One of the Biblical truths I grew up with is how when we are baptized we died with Christ, are buried with Christ and have risen with Christ. But I am sitting right here, alive. What died?

1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.” According to this verse we are a three part whole. Thinking of myself in this way makes it a little clearer.

The invisible is easy to overlook until it’s not there anymore. When we look at the shell of a loved one that has passed on we are quite aware that we are more than just a body.

My body is the visible shell that the world sees. My soul, my mind, is the invisible part of me that thinks and feels. It interprets information that is received and it can only whether it is a lie or truth. We readily acknowledge these two parts of our being. But the third, my spirit is what links me to God.

If I take a moment and think back to the Garden of Eden I remember that Adam and Eve were told that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge they would die. I distinctly remember them walking away from their encounter with God after their sin. (Gen 3) Weren’t they supposed to die? Their body and soul left the garden, but the damage was to their spirit, that invisible place that connected them to God is what died. Therefore every human was born into death, with a “dead spirit”.

The only way I can bring life to my spirit is to admit that it is dead and receive the One who is Life. God’s Holy Spirit makes life available leaving me with a choice. The choice I am faced with is that I can either receive truth from my circumstances by responding to what my soul, my mind tells me or I can listen to the truth that through Christ’s sacrifice I have now been united with God’s Spirit.  The Spirit feeds me Truth and leads me in the way I need to go.

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)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your guiding Spirit that speaks truth to my heart. Help me to listen to the Truth and not respond to my current circumstances as if that is truth. Help me to keep all my ways straight. Amen

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