Thursday, September 22, 2016

Consult Your GPS

I was driving to work one morning when traffic suddenly came to a grinding halt. Road delays are not all that unusual, but the location of this particular stop was unusual. 

This traffic standstill was on a two-lane road with forest on either side. Ahead of me I saw several vehicles turning around to find another route. Ugh! How long would this delay be? Should I find another route? Which route would be faster? All of these questions were running through my mind as I looked ahead as far as my eye could see. Unfortunately, I could not see the cause of the problem.

So, while I was sitting still in traffic (not while I was moving), I consulted my GPS. According to GPS, there was indeed a backup on the road I was on (duh) and a wreck ahead. Okay, that's what's going on. Unfortunately, GPS didn’t tell me important things like how long this delay would be or whether I should find another route. 

The questions continued to swirl through my mind, but this time I decided the best course of action would be to wait and see. Many times the detours don't end up saving me time! I decided not to panic and turn around. 

After I made that decision, traffic began to slowly move and I noticed cars coming from the other direction. That’s a good sign! This was a short-lived delay! Traffic continued to move forward and before long I saw the reason for our slow-down. Two vehicles who had bumped into each other pulled their vehicles to the side of the road so that traffic could continue to flow.

Thankful that I was finally on my journey again, I suddenly realized I had a response to a prayer I asked of God five minutes earlier! 

Minutes before this traffic delay, I was thinking about circumstances in my life that left me feeling discouraged about the future. I breathed a quick prayer and asked the Lord for some encouragement.

I remembered a Bible verse that I'd read earlier that morning. God could make water come out of a rock, so I knew the Lord could handle the details of my life. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me.

He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
 it flowed like a river in the desert. 
Psalm 105:41

I continued on my journey and a new song began to play on the radio. The words to this song reminded me that God's will was more important than mine. Okay, point taken.

As I was pondering these thoughts, that's when I ran into the traffic delay mentioned previously. After I was back on my journey I suddenly realized God had been trying to show me something. Aha! 

God sees me. (Genesis 16:13)
God hears me. (1 John 5:14)
God has a plan for my life. (Jeremiah 29:11) 

God reminded me that there will be delays in life and sometimes He asks me to wait. How long? Hmmmm... I wish I could consult my other GPS (God Positioning System), but that app has not been invented. Sometimes the delay is long and sometimes it’s brief. I do need to trust Him, though. God may detour me or ask me to be patient till He clears the way ahead.

Yes, that encouragement I prayed for had come. I only needed to pay attention and expect an answer. God is faithful!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

We love because He first loved us.

This Bible verse has come to my attention three times in a 24-hour period this week. Each time from a different source. After the third time seeing this verse I sat at attention. Is there some reason you want me to pay close attention to this verse, Lord?

We love because he first loved us. 
1 John 4:19

I thought about it for a bit and then forged ahead with my day. The clock was ticking and I had to keep moving. For the most part I pushed those early morning thoughts aside, but it was still there in the back of my mind.

As the day moved on, challenges came to the forefront. The challenges included individuals testing my patience, deadlines, and unexpected traffic delays. On the flip side were sweet times with thoughtful an supportive friends, laughter and silliness, and a simple, sweet text from my boyfriend letting me know he was thinking of me.

It's easy to be loving with the latter scenario. It's not so easy to be loving with the former scenario. Now that I've had time to think about these verses popping up everywhere, perhaps it was a reminder that I cannot be loving without Christ's love inside me. God is love and Christ is the product of that love. Without Christ in my life it's a constant struggle to love and to respond in a loving manner during difficult times. Oh, I'm not always successful in my responses. Sometimes I respond in unloving ways. It happens. [shrug]

I haven't been writing on this blog as regularly as I used to. This morning I saw a message on Facebook that reminded me that I have a story to tell. All of us do and we should share it in whatever platform given to us. My platform happens to be this blog which I started over four years ago during a time of struggle and testing. Blogging helped me and encouraged others while carrying out the message Paul taught in 2 Corinthians chapter 1.

I remember about the time I first began blogging here, God showed me that I cannot truly love a man without first understanding His love for me. It was a profound moment for me to learn that tidbit of truth. Since that time God has been teaching me how much He loves me. Earlier this year, several months after meeting my boyfriend, I had an epiphany. As much as my boyfriend loved me--and that's a whole lot--God loved me even more. Wow! My eyes filled with tears as I realized the magnitude of what that looked like. I had a human demonstration of unconditional love and finally understood how much God's love transcends all of that.

Over my lifetime I have had many demonstrations of love to show me this connection, but I didn't really get it until now. Better late, than never. God used this man in my life to teach me and to bless me. I am so very grateful. 

I was reading a devotional yesterday about the disciple John. It said that as John grew older, his writing become more and more focused on one subject: LOVE. The legend says that one of John's younger followers asked him why he focused so much on this topic and John's response was, "Because there isn't anything else." 

Love is the answer. We get so hung up on who's right and who's wrong, what she did and what he didn't do, and so on. Jesus calls us to keep loving--even when it's hard!

I'll sign off with John's words from 1 John 4: 11-21.

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,
God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 
 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
  15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  
17  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence
 on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. 
But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.20 Whoever claims to love God 
yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, 
whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 
21 And he has given us this command: 
Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Hide Our Lights Under a Bushel? No.

It's been almost exactly six months since I've posted anything new on this blog. Life has been keeping me pretty busy. I'm going to do a little stream of consciousness writing.

As we get older, there's this notion that things will get easier and slow down. I guess that can be true, but almost no one I know is experiencing a slow down. Instead, life seems to get busier. Of course, there are ways to say no to those optional events. That helps.

On the other hand, there are other events in life that come around the corner, face us square in the eye, and require our complete and immediate attention. Never mind that we'd already made plans to do something else. This new thing takes priority over everything.

The last six months of my life has been filled with the unexpected. I had to take care of my precious feline companion till his final days on earth. Saying goodbye to this friend of 14 years was difficult, but I knew that whatever was wrong with him was draining his quality of life.

Also during this time I had to closely oversee the needs of my elderly mother. After having lived apart from her for 28 years, I was given several months to visit with her a couple of times a week and make new memories. One of those memories was getting on an airplane together--including the aggravation of TSA delays (grrr)--and flying to Texas where she now lives.

And the best part of the past six, busy, months has been because of a wonderful man who has become such a blessing to me and my family. When I was not tending to the aforementioned priorities, I was spending time getting to know this precious man and making memories with him. He was there for me when I had to say goodbye to my kitty companion and he was there when I needed to move my mother to Texas. He makes me laugh, we have wonderfully deep conversations, and he makes me feel completely safe. He even stretches me out of my favorite comfort zone, encouraging me to try something new. I've tried foods I never would have before and I've even sung in Italian, in public! I've also made him sing karaoke with me in public! I'm so happy that God has blessed me with this man!

Today I had some extra time on my hands so I began thinking about life and how fleeting it can be. This morning I heard the news of how a young woman, a wonderful singer, had been gunned down by some man while she was signing autographs. It's just tragic to see a life taken so quickly. The headlines in the past few days seem to echo this sentiment. A young boy of 7 was killed while sitting in the safety of the back of his family's mini-van. A driver behind him was distracted and couldn't stop in time. Now this family has to deal with the loss of a young life. More tragedy.

I guess if I had to sum up the point of this blog post is that we do not know how much time we have on this earth and what it holds for us while we're here. I suppose it would be cliche to say that we should make the most of our life here on earth. It reads very much like a bumper sticker or a beer commercial. I suppose it is true, however cliche it may sound. I've lived life in the background. It's a somewhat safe place, but often lonely. I'm pretty certain God had bigger plans for me than that. My purpose on this earth is not to try to preserve myself, but to spread myself around and by doing so I'm spreading Jesus around. Since His love resides inside of me, it needs to come out and see daylight. I don't need to hide it in my heart.

All of this reminds me of a childhood song:

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.

I'm reminded of my theme verse for this blog, Jeremiah 29:11. I want to change it up a bit and look at the verse in a different paraphrase. When we memorize it or hear it the same way all the time, there's a tendency to gloss over it. Here's verses 10 & 11 from The Message:

This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s 
seventy years are up and not a day before, 
I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and 
bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. 
I have it all planned out—plans to 
take care of you, not abandon you, 
plans to give you the future you hope for.

Just as a reminder, this promise was given to the Israelites from God. God had a plan for His people. During those 70 years they would have to endure a lot. I'm sure they wanted to hide out and wait for someone to tell them when it was time to come out of hiding. Yet, God had a plan. It's an individual plan for each and every one of His own. And it's a plan for His collective people. He wasn't going to abandon His own. He also had a future planned for them. And these promises apply to us. Next time we're ready to give up or hide out, we need to remember God's words. "I know what I'm doing." Even when it looks like the world is going nuts and the election news is worse than the day before, God knows what He is doing. Just hang on and trust Him.

Keep reading this chapter on your own. The words are comforting:

12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Look Up!

Look up into the heavens. Isaiah 40:26a

I was thinking about this verse and it occurred to me that when I am looking up I can see God at work. 

When I am looking down all I see is myself and the world.

I don't know about you, but looking at my own life and the rest of the world has a tendency to bring me down. 

There's a lot of dissension and turmoil on this earth. Most of the time you don't have to look very far to see it. It's in our relationships and it's plastered all over the headlines of the news and social media. 

I can recall a time in years past--before the days of social media--when I felt overwhelmed by the bad news in the world. I felt helpless to do anything about anything. My choice was to remove myself from so much of the negativity for a time.

Look up.

In the past month I kept seeing verse showing up. I took notice of it and then it took me back to a time more than eight years ago.

I was attending a retreat when the speaker felt led to change the topic on which she was planning to speak. The main thing I remembered from that retreat was the feeling that God was telling me when things get rough to look up. The speaker repeated that phrase several times. 

There was nothing in particular going on in my life at that time. Little did I know that within days that my world was going to change due to the loss of a loved one. As I walked through those dark days, those words came back to me.

Look up.

I looked up. I relied on the Lord to carry me through. It wasn't easy, but the load was lighter since I wasn't bearing it all myself. When I looked up I was also able to observe how God was working all around me. I could see the comfort he was providing in tangible ways. I could still see the beauty around me. My gaze wasn't focused downward on myself.

Fast forward to the present. When this scripture kept coming to my attention, I took notice. It reminded me that whatever was coming, look up. 

If life becomes overwhelming, look up.

If I don't know what to do, look up.

If I'm feeling sad, look up.

If I'm feeling joyful, look up.

Just look up.

Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord. He gives power to the weak. He comforts those in trouble. He never tires or grows weary.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Read the entire 40th chapther of Isaiah here.