Thursday, March 31, 2011

So Alone

I was awake with my mind going at 2:24 this morning. How frustrating! I am sure you all have had this happen. Have you ever stopped to evaluate the thoughts you were having when you woke up in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep no matter what sleep inducing technique you used? For me they are never positive.

Last night I woke with an overwhelming sense of being alone—not a part of things. Tears of sadness ran down my cheeks as I thought of how vital and involved I have been in the past. I have given up all involvement in leadership in all areas of my life. I am only involved in care giving and taking care of my home. In the past I have juggled much as I took leadership roles at church, lead a Bible Study Fellowship group, worked in a career with a leadership position, and took a leadership role in family events. Last night I felt like a total nobody. My mind was focusing on how insignificant I have become to others with whom I used to be involved.

Not for a minute do I believe I am insignificant. I am a vital, integral part of caring for my mother and my mother-in-law who lives with us. My husband treats me like I am his queen. However, I do miss the frequent and fun interactions with friends. But our lives are so different now. They are deeply involved with children and grandchildren. I am mostly at home dealing with the health and care issues of an invalid.

Most importantly, God has made it very clear that I am very significant to him. I know he values me like the shepherd values the lost sheep in this parable.

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7 NIV

Jesus experienced the ultimate rejection of his friends, neighbors, and the nation yet chose to lovingly follow God’s command to display love, to accurately teach about God, and to remain sinless even when treated badly by humans. Isaiah told the Jews hundreds of years before he was born that Jesus would be a man of sorrows who was dispised by the world.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:3-4 NIV

Jesus prayed then did God’s will.

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42 NIV

So I prayed. I prayed for my friends who I miss, for the duties God will have me execute for him in the future, and for the ability to graciously and lovingly perform the tasks in my current life assignment from him. I prayed for a right attitude about my current situation.

Lord, thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for showing me your love—for making me feel valued.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Serious Stuff

Too often I am too nonchalant about my Christianity. I take it for granted. I fail to appreciate God’s grace, mercy, and blessings. I fail to see the strength, power, and majesty of God. My little world filed with my individual issues consumes me. I am so self-absorbed that I can hardly see past my personal space.

During my morning quiet time today, I was deeply convicted by a verse I memorized several years ago but have only meditated on in a superficial manner. Today, God revealed to me the magnitude of his love for me and the seriousness of my sin through this verse.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 NIV

I have gone astray. I have failed to worship and praise God as he deserves. I have been lax in adhering to his commands. It doesn’t matter that my sins seem normal and inconsequential by the world’s standards. It is still my sin. If I am so stubborn, head-strong, and rebellious, why would God have Jesus suffer ALL of the punishment for MY sins? Amazing. Humbling.

So if I truly understand the magnitude of what Jesus did for me as he suffered and died on the cross, my life will not be so self-centered. God must reign in my life—NOT ME.

Lord, forgive my lack of appreciation for you and your plan for salvation. Through the power of the Holy Spirit draw me closer to you moment by moment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I live my life as if I am immortal. I plan on living a healthy, active life for at least another thirty years, and I act as if I will live forever. Numerous projects wait to be started someday. Numerous things I want to experience are waiting for the right date. Now there is nothing wrong with doing many of these things now. I just have not gotten around to them. I cannot get organized.

I am not living an intentional life. I am letting myself live my life without thought or purpose. I respond to the urgent present needs, not considering what is best. But is this acceptable for a Christian? I seem to remember some verses commanding Christians to place God first in their lives.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 NIV

So we are to intentionally live one hundred percent for God. Does that mean I have to be a professional minister, missionary, or the like? Do not believe that for a second. God never said we all are to do the same things for him.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV

But how are we to go about living our lives so that we can perform acts of service?

"Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives." Titus 3:14 NIV

So we are to be productive. It seems to me that to be productive I must be organized so I know where things are and what I have available to use. This is the part that has been convicting me lately. I looked in my file cabinet, which was supposed to have all my business stuff neatly categorized. Items that should have been discarded ten years ago were prevalent. I looked at a bedroom closet downstairs which had become a catch-all center. Wall-to-wall clutter. Unmanageable.

So I am trying to get organized. The out-dated items are being removed from the file cabinet. The closet was completely emptied. There were items I had forgotten I owned, items which were duplicates because I did not know where they were stored, items which needed thrown or given away because they were no longer of use to me, and some very useful items that were neglected because I couldn’t easily find them when they were needed. That walk-in closet is now orderly although I still have a mound sitting in the middle of the family room floor to go through. At least I have started putting some order into one area of my life which is hampering me from living a productive, intentional life.

So I am trying to live an intentional life which is organized so I can be productive for my Lord and Savior.

Lord, give me the strength to overcome my procrastination as I de-clutter my life. May this process draw me closer to you as I realize how much you have blessed me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grumble Grumble

Okay, the last post was a bit grumbly. I admit it. I’ve been a bit blue and frustrated lately. I have no excuse for my attitude. Even when I am most dissatisfied, deep down I know how blessed I am. So I have decided to purposefully try changing my attitude by focusing on things for which I am thankful.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

I sat down at my computer and started my "thankful list."

  • Plenty of good, healthy food
  • Electricity
  • Running water
  • Sanitary living conditions
  • A car which runs well and gets good gas mileage
  • A husband who loves me (Sorry honey, I should have put this first.)
  • Being raised by Godly parents in a loving home
  • Computers
  • Cell phones
  • Safe neighborhood
  • Stable income
  • A body which functions reasonably well
  • Flowers, trees, and green grass
  • Being able to worship without fear
  • Christian friends who encourage me
  • Family who enjoy family gatherings
  • Beautiful Kansas sunrises and sunsets
  • Fresh homemade bread
  • Books to read for enjoyment and information
  • My Bible

This is a random list of things made as they popped into my head. My list making was interrupted too quickly by the necessity of tending to items which needed to be removed from the oven for lunch. The blessing is, even though I had quit writing down things for which I am thankful, my brain continued to generate a list.

So the remedy for being a bit grumbly and dissatisfied is to make a list of things for which I am thankful—a simple and effective cure.

Lord, thank you for loving me enough to instruct me about how to cure my negative tendencies by focusing on the blessings you have given me in this earthly life. Most of all thank you for salvation and the opportunity to serve you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Why can't things just be simple and satisfying. Just when I seem to be getting settled emotionally, spiritually, or experientially something happens to dishevel me. It seems like I am a yo-yo. My life starts to settle into a satisfying routine then someone does something unexpected or gets sick and the routine is in ruin. When I emotionally start feeling level after an incident which was unsettling, invariably someone says of does something which either opens up an old wound or inflicts a new one. My prayer and Bible study life is going well when the time just disappears. Often it is because I decide it will be more convenient to spend time with God after while. Then "after while" never arrives because there is another interference.

Two possible sources cause the yo-yo effect to work in my life. Satan and God. Some of you will say that I should also include my sin nature as a source. My sin nature is the reason for my sinful reactions and attitudes. But my reaction is not what I am addressing. I want to know the cause. What are the circumstances which cause the upheaval to happen? Can I control them? That is my question.

This is what I know. Satan and his demons are always throwing darts at me. Sometimes I can artfully dodge them but too often they painfully hit me. Sometimes God allows the challenge for my better good. Maybe I have become too self-reliant, too proud, too self-directed. God lets me know I have strayed.

My life was starting to run along smoothly. Then two weeks ago two unrelated things happened to set my emotions into overdrive. This week two unrelated issues cropped up and played havoc with my plans.

So how should I respond? I want to be in control. But what should my attitude be? I want to sulk and nurse the injustice of having anything or anyone disrupt my life. I know my attitude is wrong. I need wisdom from God's word. Paul, one of my favorite biblical persons, faced many trials so I searched his teaching.

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV

So my attitude should be one of gratitude to my God instead of selfish sulking or trying to gain control. Truly God has blessed me in so many ways. I should be focusing on what is right instead of what I think is wrong or unfair.

Lord, forgive my sin of sulking out of self-pity. Through the power of the Holy Spirit give me the desire to have an attitude of continual praise and thanksgiving.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chocolate or Jesus?

Remembering Jesus. Isn't that what Lent is all about? Remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation.Traditionally we are taught that during Lent we are to concentrate on prayer, fasting, and helping the needy. Some "religious" people who observe Lent just concentrate on the fasting part. Too many of these "religious" people go around talking about how they are giving up candy as they pop a chocolate into their mouths and state how one piece won't really hurt anything. Have they not read the numerous passages in the Bible which state that God will not be mocked. Do they not realize that to proclaim they are doing something out of love for God and then do exactly the opposite is defiant behavior toward the one and only God? Is a chocolate more important that keeping a pledge to God?

"I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. Isaiah 42:8 NIV

How lightly we take God! But God does not take our sin and defiance lightly.

"These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction...Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: 'Because you have rejected this message...this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging,that collapses suddenly, in an instant.'" Isaiah 30:9, 12a, 13 NIV

So when I contemplated taking a vow to fast in observance of Lent, I considered four criteria. First, it must be something that will not be too easy so that it will have meaning and will remind me of Jesus' suffering for my sin. Second, it must be something I will not violate--that I take seriously. Third, it must be something that is an integral part of my life so as I fast from it, I will be continually reminded of Jesus. Fourth, it must be something which does not bring human attention to me--that would be for my pride. It must be between me and God.

Jesus emphatically instructs his disciples not to do as the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. He gave this reason. "Everything they do is done for men to see:" Matthew 23:5a NIV

With that in mind, I rejected many common fasting ideas. I finally decided that I will drink only water. It is something I can do without drawing undue attention to myself, it will take some disciplined effort, and I will be reminded of Jesus throughout the day each time I take a drink. This is a small and simple fast, but I have come to believe it is in the small and simple things that God works most powerfully in our lives.

Lord, draw me closer to you during this lenten season. Show me how to serve through aiding the needy. Draw me closer to you as I pray. Grant to me a better understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made for my salvation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where Are You Planted?

An article in the March 12, 2011 issue of World Magazine changed my thinking. This is not particularly unusual as each issue generally has several thought provoking pieces. The one that caused my thinking to shift this time was titled "News of the Neighborhood." The subtitle summarizes the content of the article. "Journalism isn't--as recently reported--dying; it's going local." Praise the Lord! Maybe we will now have more personal, interesting, and encouraging reporting of news.There are so many wonderful and inspiring stories happening in smaller local settings. These stories seem to get lost in the "big time" news. No wonder we are becoming a seemingly cynical society. Journalism reports the sensational or the horrifying because that is all that sells on a national level. However, locals love to hear about locals. The loss of local journalism partially has been a result of modern conveniences.

I love my modern conveniences--central heating and air, 4-lane highways, comfortable cars, computers, cell phones, texting, Facebook, television, easy access to several department and grocery stores with multiple options to meet my every need.However, I have become more and more concerned with how we as humans are not connecting with each other in any meaningful way. Yes, we have hundreds of acquaintances, but how many true friends. How many of us actually know the names of our closest neighbors? Even if we do know their names, do we know anything about them--about what makes them tick, their needs?

"The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Galatians 5:14 NIV

The article in World gave examples of how websites are being used by local journalists to inform citizens of what is happening in their communities. How refreshing! It is so much easier to love your neighbor when you know about them, when you become invovled in community activities with them, when you share the same concerns. How better to produce a safe environment for families than to interact and influence our neighbors as they watch us live our our faith in Christian love?What better way to be an effective witness for our Lord and Savior?

"But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:2-3 NIV

So where has God planted you? Do you delight in being involved in your community? Do you look for ways to show Christian love to your neighbors?

Lord,show me how to be a good neighbor. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me the strength and wisdom to love my neighbors as you would have me do. May your name be glorified through me. Use me, Lord.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Procrastination: A Sin?

I have been procrastinating the past two months. I know I have been procrastinating, but I did it anyway. Now I have all kinds of excuses. I have been busy. My schedule has changed, and it has been almost impossible to find time to write. And admittedly my Bible study time has been significantly diminished on many days. My mind has been on other things, and writing was uninspired. But I think my best excuse is that I am thinking about wisdom.

I have been trying to figure out what it means to be wise. But I feel so unwise writing about wisdom. Actually, I have been greatly convicted of how lacking in wisdom I am. But in reality, I have been convicted about how many poor choices I have made in the past, and, in truth, am making today. I can rationalize my behaviors and attitudes until they are wise in my eyes. Aren’t we all very good at that? However, God has been showing me many Scripture passages which address biblical wisdom. They are spread throughout the whole Bible. The more God revealed wisdom verses to me, the more I realized I am almost ignorant on this subject. Then as if rubbing salt into a wound, God had pastors in Sunday sermons, on podcasts, and on the radio making comments about wisdom and wise choices.

So what is biblical wisdom? It is living every aspect of life under the direct influence of God. That sounds simple, but it is not.

So it means I must intentionally seek God’s will continually throughout the day. Sounds simple, but it is not. It is so much easier to procrastinate when it is something I do not really want to do or feel ill-equipped to do.

Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.’" James 4:13-15 NIV

Is procrastination a sin? Yes, but isn’t it okay to procrastinate on some things because I cannot be expected to do everything right now? No, I am not to try to do everything now. That is a human and societal expectation. But procrastinating on a direction given to me by God is sin.

So it is probably unwise to beat myself up. That will only lead to making matters worse. I know the wise choice is to start addressing issues as God directs me. That takes time in prayer and in studying the Bible. Procrastination is an issue for which I am feeling much conviction.

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.” James 4:17 NIV

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit working in me, give me the strength and wisdom to overcome my sin of procrastinating when you have directed me to do a task for your glory.

Wrong Chapter

Have you ever worked diligently to complete something but realized after you were “done” that you had been striving over the wrong thing. That happened to me early today.

This morning I sat down with a cup of coffee and my laptop for some uninterrupted time of Bible study. I attend Bible Study Fellowship. Tonight the discussion and lecture are over Isaiah Chapter 49. My intent was to complete homiletics for this chapter. But that did not happen. I did homiletics for the last half of Isaiah Chapter 54. I did not realize I was studying five chapters ahead of where I thought I was. How can that happen? How did I respond to the “waste” of my precious time caused by carelessness on my part?

First of all, for those of you who do not know about Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF), it is the best Bible study available. BSF is worth the time and effort to go through its eight courses of study. Biblical truths are taught in such a way, if you participate in completing the lessons and attending class, you will become very knowledgeable about the whole Bible and how to live a Christian life. God works through BSF. If you want more information about a class close to you, visit BSF International .

Homiletics is a fancy word for a systematic, in-depth method of studying a passage of scripture. BSF classes teach how to do homiletics. BSF discussion leaders and administrative staff volunteers do it in preparation for training and discussion. Homiletics, as taught by BSF, involves carefully examining what a passage of scripture says, dividing the passage into topic areas, stating in very concise terms what is said, stating the aim of the whole passage, and writing questions for applying the lesson to life. I have found that when I take the time to let God lead me through this process, I actually quit looking at a passage as boring or irrelevant to me. The Bible takes on a vibrant relevancy to my life.

Now back to my mistake. As I was completing the examination of the content of the verses using a word processor and Bible software on my computer, I had a question which for me is easier to decipher when looking at a printed page. So I opened my Bible to discover Chapter 49 did not say what I had been studying!

Wasted time? Anger over my mistake? No. I was blessed by the study of the last half of Chapter 54. I feel reassured and closer to God. I had been struggling with Chapter 49 and will go back to it at another time. But today, God knew I needed his encouragement found in a different passage.

…”’no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 NIV

So what did I learn? In the future when I find I have made a mistake, I need to seek God’s desire for my response. What attitude should I have? What action is God leading me to take? This morning God orchestrated my error so he could bless me early this morning. I serve an amazing God.

“’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10 NIV

Lord, thank you for your direction and encouragement. Create in me a desire to see you in everything even if it is not what I had planned.