Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

My dog really likes getting a bath. I say that in jest, of course. In fact, at this moment he’s flailing around because he just got one. You see, he likes to roam on our property and when he finds “droppings,” he rolls in it and then thinks its okay to come in all stinky and messy. No matter how many times I scold him when he comes to the door that way, he doesn’t seem to get the message. He just can’t stay out of the messes.

I was thinking about how frustrated I get with him every time he does this (at least once a week) and it got me really thinking. What about the messes I get myself into over and over again? How often do I make a bad decision, display an unsupportive attitude, say a negative comment – then see the error of my ways and pray for a changed heart, rely on myself to make that change, only to slip up and repeat the pattern. Growing up, self-reliance was something that I really felt I needed to achieve. It was probably a protection mechanism so that I didn’t have to depend on anyone for fear of them letting me down. Yet, as good as I got at it, oftentimes it prevents me from really trusting and fully committing my actions to the Lord. It also makes me wonder how sad it must make God when He sees me make the same mistakes over and over, and how I’m sure He wants to see me turn those areas of my life over to Him to change and use for His purpose. When I fail to release my grip and “have to” control something, I am the one who suffers.

And then there are those areas where I have surrendered to Him. It’s a beautiful portrait of faith and love. When I pause and recognize His hand on my life, I see things I could never in my wildest dreams imagine. I see doors open and relationships prosper that never seemed possible.
So, my prayer today is that I can release all control to Him so that I can stay out of the messes. It may not be visible and stink like my dog, but the mess is still seen by Him who wants all of me. The best news is, of course, that there is grace sufficient enough to clean up any mess I may get into!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

For everything there is a season...

...a time for every activity under heaven.A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2.

I’m taking a little time to reflect. You see, I live in Colorado and every year there is a big to-do about the changing leaves and the fall color up in the “high country.” It is breath-takingly beautiful to witness. Ever since I became a mom, I have taken the kids up each fall to take pictures. Some of my favorite snapshots of them are from those trips. It is a mix of the striking blue sky above, majestic mountains backdrop and the sparkle of gold, yellow and green leaves on the trees around them. It is so stunning, it simply leaves me without words.

Yesterday we took this year’s trek. We drove a route that is well known for its splendor and magnificent color. As we searched traveled, I was balancing driving and looking for that perfect spot for pictures with taking in the beauty around us. We stopped several times, took some great photos and had some (mostly) enjoyable quality family time. (I say mostly because I was traveling with a 9 and 6-year-old who tend to try to annoy one another any chance they can!)

Fall is a transitional time, both for the earth and for us personally. So last night, after we were back and settled into our typical weekend routine, I tried to pause and think about what that means. The verse from Ecclesiastes popped in my head, so I spent some time reading through it again.

Interestingly, what we as humans appreciate so much about fall is really a signal of an ending. The colorful changing leaves mean that they are dying off and settling into a winter mode. Where I live, this means snow, much colder temperatures and bare trees along with brown fields and grass. Where I live in Colorado we don’t get as much snow as you might think, so most of the winter is pretty barren looking.

When I read through that passage, the meaning was so relevant. Change is inevitable in life. It’s how I respond and what I find to appreciate in the changes that enriches my life and helps me to grow stronger and deeper in my faith. Instead of responding with anxiousness and uncertainty, I need to trust, talk to Jesus about my fear and turn it over to Him.

If you asked me 20 years ago if I would ever live in Colorado, I would have laughed at you and thought you were crazy. But being open to change has been a blessing for me in life. When I got married, I knew going into it that we were going to live outside my self-imposed comfort zone and part of that meant moving from Florida to Colorado. Now, nearly 15 years later, I have an appreciation for so many different things I never would have experienced had I stayed put where I was.

In reflecting back, I can see the relevance of the passage. I find that both beautiful and ironic knowing where that the writer of Ecclesiastes was in his life at the time.

For me, at least, looking back on experiences, changes and challenges provides more clarity and understanding than when I am in the middle of it. Perhaps appreciating the changing of the seasons will help me to develop a more forward-thinking appreciation of the changes that are inevitable in life here on Earth. I know that will only be accomplished with a deep connection to our Heavenly Father, the One who makes it all for His glory.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

…Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is...

… and who is still to come.” Rev. 4:8

Prayer and attitude have been on my heart this week, quite a bit. A friend had some thoughts on how to approach prayer. Not my sometimes-typical laundry list of needs and wants, but an approach that includes a sense of reverence and wonder. I guess I have moments when I experience that level, but admittedly hadn’t spent a lot of time on it.
One of the passages my prayer-warrior friend suggested was Revelation 4. I’m going to confess here that Revelation is a tough book for me. It is the book of the Bible that I find most intimidating. So, seeing that on the list was scary to me. I jostled that around in my head for a couple of days before I determined that I needed to get over it and study it. There was something powerful in it and I needed to understand it. Imagine yourself in the presence of God, my friend suggested. Oh boy, that’s a big statement. Where do I even start? I’ve always loved “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me. I could relate to that inability to know how I’d react.

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

So, as I pondered reading the Scripture, I wondered where my heart would land. Nervously, I opened to Revelation 4 and read. As I was reading the passage noted above, my radio was playing in the background. AT THAT moment “Revelation Song” came on! Whoa. The line in the song directly from Revelation 4:8 was playing just as I was reading it. A true God-incident, I believe. I stopped reading, listened to more of the song and then went back to the Scripture. And something clicked. What am I afraid of? This book and the entire Book is a gift from our Maker.

After reading through that passage, and a couple others recommended, I started to get it. I need a different approach to prayer life. An attitude of reverence was a natural response when I read through these passages.

God so beautifully gave us His word for us to use as our guide. I realize that in my prayer life, I’m not connecting the dots, per se. I was separating “prayer” as that conversation about the things on my heart and the situations, concerns and conditions that are on my prayer list. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I haven’t been taking that next step, into the next level. The more appreciative, humble approach that starts and ends with reading the Scripture and meditation that my friend recommends, demonstrates how significant God is and how insignificant I am. And yet, even with that, He loves me and wants that intimate relationship. I think I’m about to have a breakthrough and really begin growing in that relationship.

He places people, instances and relevance in our lives for His glory and purpose. I’m so grateful that He’s moving in my life. I thank my prayer-mentors for their guidance and encouragement. And I praise God for knitting them into my little life so that He will be glorified.

Friday, September 11, 2009

“Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6

My study group just finished reading the book, “Prayer, Does it Make a Difference?” by Philip Yancy. When we decided to study it, I was apprehensive. I’m still a pretty green Christian and know I have such a long way to go before I’d believe I have a strong and solid prayer life. I have periodic bouts of strong devotion, dedicated time and a feeling of closeness. Wow, those times are wonderful and I think “this is it! I’m in the groove now!” And then, something rattles my schedule, or dedication and I’m off the wagon again. So knowing all this, I was a little fearful to begin an in-depth study of prayer!

How wrongly placed my fear was. As He has shown me over and over, God never puts me into a situation or places a challenge in front of me that is worthy of any fear. This study took us through many twists and turns of the prayer lives of numerous people with a thread throughout that was so easy to connect with. While many of us focused on different aspects in our study time, the overall message was clear. God wants a relationship with us and prayer is His gift of ongoing, intimate, active conversation with Him. I really believe prayer is more for our benefit than His.

All of us shared our struggles with finding the time, uncertainty over what to pray for and how to address some really tough questions raised in the book. But we all took away that prayer is necessary and beneficial to the pray-er because it brings a sense of peace and shifts focus away from us to our God, the God of all – where it ought to be! Yancy talks about having a “view from above” that helps keeps life in perspective with God and His plan. When we try to see things from God’s bigger perspective, it puts things in line a little clearer. His analogy involved peering down from atop a fourteener in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. There’s nothing like a view from 14,000 feet to help put us in perspective.

The one revelation of this study that is really sticking with me is what I call the undercurrent – that inner conversation we all have ongoing constantly. Focusing that conversation God-ward instead of just to myself has been something that I’ve been doing for a while without even realizing it. It’s become very natural to continually have an inner conversation with God over the everyday stuff of life – the challenges, struggles and more importantly, the blessings. “Thank you” comes into play so often because He has so richly blessed my life.

I have a long way to go, I know that for sure. But, after this study, I know that I am not alone in the struggle and God loves me regardless. He is there whenever and wherever I approach Him.

I will end with one excerpt from the book. It is a beautiful testament to the Maker of all and how much He loves us.

Love God with all your heart, Jesus said. Listen to your life: to its passion, its dreams and disappointments, its tedium as well as its drama. It came to you as a gift and each day, too, unravels as a gift. God wants an invitation to share in its every detail.
- Philip Yancy, Prayer