Monday, February 27, 2012

It's About YOU

Why are you here on this earth? Are you just some random kid that was the result of your parents' life together? Are you here to be successful or to make lots of money? Are you here as an act of fate? Just Because?? 

Nope! You are here by God's choosing because He wanted you to be here. He designed you and put the characteristics in your personality that were perfect for the plan He has for you. He didn't mess up a single detail but made you perfectly wonderful!  You are created in His image and you are His masterpiece.  There is no one exactly like you. 

And your is not a random series of events. It was planned long before you were born by your God who loves you so completely that you could never imagine the height, depth, or width of it. Every situation and circumstance has been orchestrated or allowed to make you into the person that He can use to do what He wants you to do, whether it seems good, bad, or ugly! All things work together for your good - IF you love HIM!  

The bottom line is that God made you to have relationship with Him, to love Him, and to glorify Him with your life - wherever you are, whatever you're doing, and however you ARE. If you don't know the Lord, today is the day to get connected to Him by telling Him you need and want Him.  If you know Him but you've messed up big time, confess, get right with God and go forward into His plan for you. If you're walking with the Lord, keep at it. Grow, mature, stay more and more connected and don't get discouraged. You're doing important work for Him, whether you think so or not.

This is the day that the Lord has made...rejoice, be glad in it, and do what He wants you to do with it!  Have an awesome day!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's About Time

       "Midnight in Paris" was a time-travelling film about a young man who is truly dissatisfied with his life. He has a critical, unfaithful fiance, a meaningless job, and snobby soon-to-be in-laws. He longs to live in the 1920s in Paris, which is a time & place brimming with writers, musicians, and artists. As he walks the Paris streets on vacation, he is pondering life when a '20s era car picks him up and he is magically transported to his dream era. As he hobnobs with his literary and artistic heroes, he finds the girl of his dreams and believes he has found his paradise...that is until he realizes that although that period was his golden age, the ones who actually lived in it are all unhappy and wishing they lived in a different era as well. He finally realizes the truth that the whole point in living is to make the most of the time you live in and be grateful for who you are!
       I enjoyed the movie and started reflecting on my own life and the people that I know. I always assumed that I would end up living basically the lifestyle I grew up in - the 50s. I thought I might work a few years until I had kids, then stay at home to raise them and be the perfect wife & mom while my husband went off to work. We would live in suburbia, have a dog and a car or two, go to church, and be happy. That was my childhood, (minus the dog) so why would my adulthood be any different?  My girlfriend and I even have matching pictures of the white picket fence with its red roses growing on and through it.
       Well, Proverbs 16:9 says man makes his plans but God directs his steps and makes them sure. He must have smiled at my innocence because my life has been nothing like my expectations. I've lived a roller coaster life of love, heartache, tears of laughter and sobs of sorrow. I have walked with both parents through their deaths and have witnessed the joy of new life.  I have mentored young girls who were thrown away by their families, and have had the opportunity to glean from some of the most amazing spiritual women of their generation. I have seen God do miracles of healing, provision, and orchestration of circumstance. I have watched Him come through time after time in the midnight hour, and been blessed by witnessing His loving care through some incredibly difficult days. I have been allowed to use His gifts in me to edify, comfort, teach, train, and support. Instead of going to the fountain each week to refuel my spiritual life, I have learned to refill my Spirit through my personal walk and then Be the fountain. And I wouldn't trade my life or experiences for any other time, place, or circumstance.
      The Bible says in Galatians 4:4 that "In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son"..." He came into the world at the perfect time and in the perfect place to do exactly what He was meant to do. In the Old Testament, when Esther was questioning her circumstances, she was told "And who knows if God has not chosen you for just such a time & occasion as this" (Esther 4:14) and I believe that is true of all of us as well.  Each of us has been given that same blessing - we have been put into the time, place, and situation that God has chosen so that we might live for Him and do His will.We have been created as we are, with our gifts and abilities for such a time as this.(Eph. 2:10)  There is no better time or different place that we could be - so don't waste days in wishing, day dreaming, mumbling or grumbling. Treat each day as a gift and fulfill the mission God has given you "for just such a time as this." You only get one life, so use it well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A reflection on Ash Wednesday

      I read an enlightening article about Ash Wednesday. It was written by a Seattle pastor who highlighted the 3 things that Christians in our culture do not like to do: think about our own mortality, confess our sins, and accept responsibility for our actions. All of these are components of Ash Wednesday.
      The solemn celebration begins with a lengthy period of confession. In our culture where self-justification and rationalization reign supreme, confession is not only infrequent, but severely lacking in sincerity. We are better at toleration, acceptance, and making peace than we are at recognizing and then renouncing sin. If I see sin in you, then I have to acknowledge the sin that is also in me. Accepting you without criticism or judgment allows me to gloss over Biblical standards and laws. To avoid being labeled as a bigot, I relax my principles to be the least offensive possible, making them ineffectual and worthless. My character is now in jeopardy because my moral compass is skewed. But humility seems to be such a high price...and confession, though good for the soul, requires me to lay down my self-righteousness in favor of repentance. Ouch!
      The second part of the ceremony is the "imposing" of ashes. It is a reminder that we came from the dust and that's where we will eventually go. In our culture that is obsessed with beauty and the maintaining of youth, being reminded of our limited time on this earth is counter-cultural, even if it is true!
      For the most part, we are a society that refuses to accept responsibility and excels in playing the blame game. It's our parents' fault, our government's fault, someone else's fault, even God's fault...but never ours. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we are not accountable. The Bible, however, clearly says that our choices will be judged - not our environment or circumstances. If it is written, and it is, that every thought, careless word, and action will be made known and judged, we are playing a dangerous game when we try to make excuses for our sin by "passing the buck".
      Ash Wednesday reminds us that as fallible human beings we need to acknowledge and confess our sin, taking accountability for ourselves, and then pour on the grace of God's forgiveness to ourselves and others in humility and love. We need to remember that our lives are but a breath and that the only things that really count are those things that we do through and for God.  It is a time to reflect and renew our passion for God, determining not to waste even one precious day in bitterness, resentment, or self-centeredness. And although it is considered by most Christians to be a "Catholic" thing, shouldn't its principles be part of every believer's life? I certainly think so!

   **This post is a reflection on an article written by Anthony B. Robinson, President, Seattle Congregational Leadership Northwest, called "Ash Wednesday: It's a counter cultural thing"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our “Sowing Circle”

      As Christians, we have been given the awesome and incredible responsibility to pass on that which God has put into us. When I think back through the years, I can recall many women who crossed my path and imparted some of their spiritual insights and wisdom to me. Some of them were brief exchanges and others were those who were part of my life for a long time. It really doesn’t matter how much time you spend, the chronological age of the person, the length of the relationship, or the complexity of the conversations - what matters is that you “live intentionally”, purposely finding time to receive from others and then sharing your own experiences and life lessons with those that God would bring to you. It’s so important.
       The Bible is full of examples of “passing it on”. Of course there is the Paul-Timothy example and the Barnabas-Mark mentoring, but there are countless others. There is also the “straight up” exhortation in Titus 2 that tells “older women” to teach the younger. Those who have walked longer with the Lord have so many life experiences and faith lessons that you don’t just automatically gain by reading books or studying! It’s maturity and wisdom developed through the daily living of choices made and consequences reaped - some good, some not so good!
       So there's the important truth about sowing. God expects that we will use what we have learned for enriching, expanding and edifying other believers. He also wants us to receive from others' experiences, lessons, & teaching!
       It doesn’t have to be a monumental task - a quick cup of coffee with someone, a phone chat, an afternoon tea break…there are so many ways to do it. The hardest part is just deciding to do it. Look around at the people in your life - who in your "circle" needs some "sowing" of encouragement, prayer, a word from the Lord, a little spiritual “push” to help them change direction? Who can you align your heart with to receive some "sowing" from? It can be as intense as “student teaching” …or as relaxed as casual conversation with a friend. It is just the “passing on of those truths that have impacted your life”; sharing those insights that will help another who is coming along behind you. Ask God for discernment, wisdom, and opportunity. He will provide the people, the places, and even the words - He is always ready to answer those kinds of requests! You will be blessed and be a blessing all at the same time!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Better Choice

We had a terrible rain and wind storm last week. It was the worst one we've had for a while - with pelting rain and strong winds. The result was that Sunday night we lost a chunk of our dining room ceiling. Water made a huge bubble in the ceiling plaster, ran down the walls, came out of the heater get the picture. In other words, it was a mess! Dan got up on the roof and then searched around the attic with a flashlight  to see if he could determine the problem but there were not obvious issues. Our roof is only a few years old so we couldn't imagine what could possibly be wrong. It's never leaked before and looks just fine - to the untrained eye!

Well, this morning we had a roofer take a look. After just a brief  period of time, the roofer found the culprit -one little shortcut by a lazy roofer and the events leading to the collapse were set in motion. The roofing crew did 7000 feet of roof just fine but in one obscure corner, instead of doing what needed to be done, they compromised and took the easy solution.  Their decision didn't show up for a while; in fact it took just the right combination of wind and rain for their "expedient modification" to be discovered, but it did show up...and in a big way!

Our lives as Christians are like that.  We go along just fine, doing what we know is the right thing -  reading our Bibles, praying, going to church, making good decisions. Then temptation comes along to cause us to compromise. Maybe we get a lazy streak or just go for the easy solution. Maybe situations cause us to deviate from our usual walk with the Lord. And the rationalizations start -  it's just a small thing... no one is going to Sunday won't hurt...I read the Bible enough...I'm in a hurry, I'll pray later...I've had extra expenses this month so I'll catch up my tithe next month...everyone else does it...

And it's so easy to slip just a little, to take a tiny shortcut, to compromise a principle or two. That one decision can lead to another and then another. Pretty soon our values get a little blurry. Guilt causes us to become defensive, to justify ourselves, to begin to isolate from those who might find out. The devil is just too happy to provide our excuses and then to help us rationalize our faulty choices. Our seemingly insignificant decision begins to birth a habit of compromise and we are undone.  An "expedient modification" turns into a nightmare that all can see. It may take a while, and just the right circumstances may have to occur for it to show up, but it will show up.

The Bible tells us that the lazy man will harvest a crop of weeds (Pro.24:30-31)...that a little leaven leavens the whole loaf (Gal. 5:7-9)...that what we sow we will eventually reap (Gal. 6:7).  Our choices, though they may seem small, are seeds that we plant in our lives. If we plant good seed, a fruitful harvest will always come. If we don't, we can only blame ourselves when the roof caves in!! Thankfully, God will rescue us even then and give us the chance to repair the damage but it's sure a mess until it's fixed! Better to just choose to do it right the first time!! It is a life saver in the long run!