Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Patient Endurance

"When you come to a mountain you can do one of two things: You can go around it or you can go over it. The first way is the easiest, but you'll miss the view from the top." (Quote from The Waltons)

There is a mountain of wisdom in that quote. I was watching an episode of The Waltons when the older brother (Jason) was giving this piece of advice to his younger brother (Jim Bob). The younger of the two was trying to avoid a path that his life was taking. The path he was avoiding would take him out of his comfort zone and prove to be challenging. It would have been so much easier to avoid the challenging path, but in the end he would not have discovered all that he could accomplish. He rose to the challenge and exceeded his own expectations--and that of friends and family.

Sometimes life gets tedious and sometimes it's treacherous.

The tedious path of life is often quiet. Those are the times when I'm just putting one foot in front of the other on level ground. For the most part it's not very exciting. It's often predictable, but it's safe.   

The treacherous path is challenging. Effort is required to take this path. I may stumble on this path, get out of breath, or look at what's ahead and just become flat-out intimidated. It's unpredictable. Safe?? Hard to say.

Both paths are profitable. The tedious path produces endurance so that we can go the distance. The treacherous path calls upon that endurance to help us climb that mountain. It also makes our senses more keen to notice the path we're walking on so that we're carefully climbing.

If we try to climb a mountain without putting in the endurance training, we might not make it up that mountain or be so incredibly worn out when we get there that we miss the view at the top. If we avoid climbing mountains altogether, we'll definitely miss the breathtaking view from the top.

Usually I'm writing about things I'm learning so why am I talking about mountains? Lately I've been on that predictable, sometimes tedious path. Each day looks about the same as the other--with a few exceptions here and there. It's pleasant, but I keep thinking there should be more.  Then I started getting the feeling that God has a mountain for me to climb. I wasn't ready for that mountain so I decided to keep circling it instead. However, the Lord patiently reminds me that I need to begin taking steps onto that mountain. Thankfully, I don't have to climb it all in one day. Just a little at a time.

The first way is the easiest, but I don't really want to miss the view from the top. And, as I've been constantly reminded lately... If God is leading, then He's also equipping.

"So do not throw away this 
confident trust in the Lord. 
Remember the great reward it brings you!  
Patient endurance is what you need now, 
so that you will continue to do God’s will. 
Then you will receive all that he has promised."
-Hebrews 10:35-36 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Don't Forget to Remember: Memorial Day

As I write this, I'm enjoying a day off from the usual routine--a day off from work. It's Memorial Day, a day that is often called the unofficial kick-off to summer. A day of picnics, barbecues, swimming, and other outdoor events (if weather cooperates). I'll confess that it's only been in the past few years that I really paid attention to the real meaning behind Memorial Day. I'm sure I had heard the meaning, but when you're young that sort of symbolism gets lost in the excitement of other things. I suppose as I've gotten older that I've really come to appreciate the true meaning behind things I used to take for granted, about life and death, and spiritual matters.

Because it is Memorial Day, I want to think about what this really means. Here's a definition of the word memorial:

memorial [mɪˈmɔːrɪəl]
1. serving to preserve the memory of the dead or a past event
2. of or involving memory
1. something serving as a remembrance
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a written statement of facts submitted to a government, authority, etc., in conjunction with a petition
3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) an informal diplomatic paper
[from Late Latin memoriāle a reminder, neuter of memoriālis belonging to remembrance]
(courtesy of thefreedictionary.com)

A memorial is simply a reminder. It's a way to preserve the past for those of us in the present and those in the future. Reminders are second-nature to all of us. We have sticky-notes that remind us of important memos. We have alarm clocks to wake us up or remind us of appointments. We have photographs of our friends and families that remind us of their faces or events.  We even have scars on our bodies that remind us of the time we fell down on the playground, wiped out on our bicycle, and even of an accident we'd rather not remember. These are everyday reminders or memorials. I bet you never thought of a scar as a memorial!

The Bible is full of memorials too. The Old Testament is full of these memorials. A memorial was errected whenever something significant happened in their lives. It was usually a reminder of God's provision and intervention in their lives. One such memorial is that set up by Joshua in chapter 4. Following the Israelites 40-year wandering in the desert, they entered the Promised Land, but had to cross the Jordan River. God provided a way across the river for them and verse 9 tells us that, "Joshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day."

As we celebrate this Memorial Day in the United States, we remember the sacrificies of men and women in the service of our country. We also remember the loved-ones they left behind. Enjoy the holiday, the day off, the picnics, but take a few moments to remember the sacrifices we so often take for granted.

Hope you have a safe and pleasant holiday.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wordy Wednesday

For those who may be new to this blog, on Wordy Wednesdays I like to allow God's Word to speak for itself instead of me doing the writing. Sometimes I only share scripture and other times I might write just a little to accompany it. This week I'd like to share just a little.

Watching the events that have happened in Oklahoma the past few days has been heart-wrenching. Television cannot do it justice. Our minds (at least my mind) has become so accustomed to seeing destruction on television and movies that we it's hard to grasp the reality of death and destruction. We tend to get a little numb to it. The moment that hit home with me was watching video of school children shortly after the tornado ravaged their school. Children were standing there in shock. Adults were doing the best they could to comfort all the children, but they were outnumbered. I saw one little boy, perhaps ten years old, standing alone and looking shocked and frightened. I'm sure he was trying to lay eyes on a familiar face. I wanted to reach through the television and hug that child.

Even when I feel like life isn't treating me well, when I feel all alone or lost, I know that the Lord will sustain me. He's here. He's ready to reach out and put comforting arms around me. I only need to acknowledge His presence and ask for help.

Tragedy has a way of putting things in perspective. May the Lord sustain us all during these rough days.

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain. 
I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
  Psalm 3:3-6

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wordy Wednesday

I’ve loved you 
the way my Father 
has loved me. 

Make yourselves at home
in my love. 
If you keep my commands, 
you’ll remain intimately 
at home in my love. 

That’s what I’ve done—
kept my Father’s commands
and made myself at home
in his love.

John 15:9-10

These are the words of Jesus. There's no mistaking it. He loves me and you. Abide in Him and His love today.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dry Spells and Disruptions

Have you ever hit a dry spell? You may call it a bump in the road, a hiccup, or a roadblock in life.

You're just cruising along--it's not perfect--but it's moving in a direction of some sort. You're not even sure sometimes where you're headed, but you may have a destination in mind. Then something changes. Focus is unclear. Momentum is lost. You may not even realize it's happened until weeks later.

That's where I feel like I am lately. Everything seems a little out of focus. Even the joy of writing has become less joyful for the moment. I still like writing, mind you. It's just that...well, there's this undercurrent of minor chaos all around me. I've written about some of that recently. With a busy day job that requires a lot of mental energy, lately I don't feel like I have much left when I return home in the evenings. Crash. Vegetate. Go to bed. It's a relentless cycle. I can't blame it all on my day job, though. Other areas of my life seem to be requiring more of me than before, too. Some of it's good stuff, too. It's just that managing this maze of my life has made me weary. (For the record, please don't read into this that I don't like my job.)

I used to spend a lot more spare time reading. All of that focused time kept my creative juices going and inspired so many of my blog posts. I still read, but not as much as before. I even get inspiration for writing. Yet those moments of inspiration seem to come to me when I don't have time to write them down or develop them. I think to myself that I'll write it down as soon as I get a chance. Then something happens and I forget.

I also did a lot of journaling in the past year, recording spiritual events so that I wouldn't forget. That journal is a wonderful keepsake of the way God has worked in my life. I haven't written in that journal for the past two months. So you see, I'm not really sure whether to call it a dry spell or a huge disruption.

I'll be honest. I can look back now and see that some of this started shortly after coming to the realization that a door to one part of my life had been closed. It brought me to a point where I questioned the purpose of many things that occurred in my life during the past year. Why did all these things happen which were leading me in one direction suddenly come to a startling halt? Did I miss something? What did I do wrong? What did you do, God?  I went through the gammut of emotions as I processed these thoughts. Besides talking to God about them, I even talked to trusted friends. There are no answers at this time. Just more questions. One thing has not changed, though. I still trust God. Oddly enough, I probably trust Him now more than ever. After the events He's brought me through, I've really learned how much God loves me and wants the best for me. How can I not trust Him?

Meanwhile, I've also felt this strong compulsion to keep writing. But, with this disruption...What's a girl to do? Hmmm. I know I've got to find the time to do it. The Lord keeps showing me over and over than I need to share through writing.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tell us that there is "A Time for Everything." I'm sure you're familiar with these words...
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven. (Ecc. 3:1)

There's a really great song from the 1960s based on these verses. Time truly is in God's hands. He is in control. Probably less familiar is the entire book of Ecclesiastes. The writer, Solomon, was a really wise man. Yet he struggled with life, too. "It's all meaningless," he would say. Read what Solomon writes just after the "A Time for Everything" section:

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15
What do people really get for all their hard work?  
I have seen the burden God has placed on us all.  
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. 
He has planted eternity in the human heart, 
but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.  
So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long 
as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, 
for these are gifts from God. And I know that whatever God does is final. 
Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people 
should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will
 happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the 
same things happen over and over again.

Even a wise man like Solomon grappled with life. He had riches untold. He ruled in peace as a King like no other has ever known. He was truly blessed by God. I like what Warren Wiersbe says about this book:

"Called a pessimistic book, Ecclesiastes is actually realistic. ...When viewed apart from God ('under the sun'), life is indeed 'vanity' (futility); but when you live for Christ, life is never 'in vain.' ...Six times Solomon advises you to enjoy life now and be grateful for God's gifts."  Wiersbe remind us that this is not pleasure-seeking philisophy, but a joyful outlook for believers who accept life as something from God to enjoy.

I feel like I rambled a bit, but just wanted to share a little of what's on my heart. What are you grappling with these days?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wordy Wednesday

In peace I will 
lie down and sleep,
for you alone, 

O Lord, will 
keep me safe. 
Psalm 4:8

We can rest peacefully knowing that the Lord is always awake, watching over us.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What Are You Trusting In?

"What are you trusting in that makes you so confident?"

Those were the words spoken by the Assyrians standing just outside the city of Judah (2 Kings 18:19-24). This may be ancient history, but there is modern day application to this story. The Assyrians had already conquered nearby Samaria. Now they were standing outside the city of Judah politely, but firmly requesting that King Hezekiah surrender.

Typically we think of conquerors as those who storm the gates. They shoot first and ask questions later. But sometimes the enemy stands outside and attempts to use reason to gain control. Why not? If bloodshed can be avoided with a little attack on the mind, give it a try.

King Hezekiah was one of those good guys. He trusted the Lord, obeyed God, and removed pagan shrines in the land. He followed in the footsteps of his ancestor, King David. Consequently, the Lord blessed him. But,the enemy still showed up. Hezekiah tried to smooth over any wrongs his people had done to the Assyrians. He offered reparations of gold and silver. It did no good. The Assyrians weren't interested.

That's when the mind games began. The enemy was standing outside their city walls asking them to surrender. When Hezekiah refused, the Assyrian representative accused them of relying on their own intellect or on another army to rescue them. After Hezekiah refused to surrender, the Assyrian man pulled out all the stops by suggesting that God wanted them to surrender. He implied that God had led them to have Judah surrender because of something they had done.

Here's where the present-day life application comes in. We're cruising along in our lives, trying to follow God's path, being obedient yet not always succeeding. The enemy sneaks up beside us to remind us of those times we've failed and entices us to surrender. He fills our heads with doubt and fear. We try to stand firm in our faith, trusting that the path we're on is the one God want us on. Inside we wonder if he's right...Maybe God did send this circumstance to get me back into His will or to punish me? 

Hezekiah stayed firm in his faith. He prayed rather than responding to those threats (2 Kings 19). The Lord responded by delivering them. In fact, more than 100,000 Assyrians died in their sleep. God stepped in and helped calm their fears and He took care of the enemy. Hezekiah did not trust in his intellect. He did not trust in the strength of his army or Egypt's army. He trusted God.

The enemy seems to be telling me to "throw in the towel," with lies such as: 
The odds of finding a mate at your age are very low. It's time to give up. 
You don't have what it takes to write. There are plenty of writers out there already.

I could go on and on with a laundry list of lies, doubts, and fears. When I hear these, I need to remember to pray and consult the Lord. I need to remember to trust in the God, His promises, and not in anything or anyone else.

What lies are you listening to? Have you consulted the Lord about it?

I'll end with these verses from Psalm 56:1-7.

O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me.  
My foes attack me all day long. 
I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, 
and many are boldly attacking me.  
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. 
I praise God for what he has promised.  
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  
What can mere mortals do to me?  
They are always twisting what I say;  
they spend their days plotting to harm me. 
They come together to spy on me— 
watching my every step, eager to kill me.  
Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; 
in your anger, O God, bring them down.