Monday, July 30, 2012

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:17

This morning, my cell phone locked up and wouldn’t do anything. I tried all the usual fixes, to no avail. After more than an hour, it was evident that the only solution was a trip to Verizon. 

You wouldn’t think that would be a big inconvenience. I’m unemployed, the kids are out of school and we didn’t have any big plans for today. And yet, my response was one of irritation that led to having a short temper with my family. 

All this after an early morning that included a run complete with prayer, great worship music and wonder over an incredible sunrise, and quiet time afterward.


I was able to catch myself and prayed to handle the situation better. We navigated the challenge without further incident from me.

But it left me unsettled most of the day. Why is this such a struggle? How can I be so focused on God’s presence one minute and snapping at my kids or husband the next?

This afternoon, I was working on Bible study homework and came upon Galatians 5:17. It stopped me in my tracks. As Paul notes, there is a battle going on inside me every minute of every day. It is the fight between my sinful nature and the Holy Spirit to guide me in ways better than I can choose on my own.

I knew in my heart that I cannot overcome this tendency without full submission to the Spirit’s leading. This is hard stuff. I pray for God to change me. I pray to yield my will to His. But, my flesh is tough. It wants what it wants and it doesn’t like to be led otherwise. And, I have to wonder sometimes, if I really mean it when I say I’m willing to submit.

One of the questions in our study asked us to consider if we are actually bargaining with God, instead of fully submitting to His will.


I have to admit, I have done this. I say I want His will, but when it doesn’t look like what I think it should look like, I squirm and fidget and get testy. Which leads to responses like today.

My prayer was that God would show me those places in my heart where I am holding back. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but if I truly want to walk this walk and live in His will, it’s the only way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

I am not a runner.

I do, however, run. Mostly for cardio exercise, but also because I have committed to running my first half-marathon next February and I have to train.

In recent weeks, I had upped my average run to almost four miles. It was a feat I hadn’t ever even come close to, but by running 3-4 times a week, it had become doable. I was feeling pretty good. Then, we went out of town for several days. Right after our return, I caught a cold. I went a week without a run. When I got back in my running shoes this week, I felt awful. Like I hadn’t trained much at all. In just a short amount of time, my stamina was nearly gone and I barely had three miles in me.

It was frustrating and disappointing. But, most of all, I was off track – not keeping aligned with what I had committed to.

As I was huffing and puffing my way through that run, I was praying and asking God for help. I felt as though He was showing me that while, yes, He was there and willing to hold my hand throughout this challenge, there was a better solution.

He is there for me to lean on all the time, rather than just when it feels tough. Staying in line with His will and purpose every day and every moment will help ensure I don’t slip off track and lose momentum for what I committed to.  A lifetime here, and eternity with Him.

Life gets busy. Life gets hard. Life can get out of control if I let those first two take over and I set God aside for the everyday things of life. He HAS to be my first priority or everything else just falls apart. And, I want Him to be my first priority. Even so, there are those days when I lose focus.

However, when I choose to focus on Him first thing in the day, He aligns my heart and my stamina is increased. My ability to hear His voice, leading me through whatever that day might bring, is enhanced. When I get to the end of days like that, it just feels better.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

In the rush to get out the door for baseball practice, my husband forgot to take an important piece of paper. We needed it notarized and someone was going to do that for us at practice. As soon as I realized he had forgotten it, I scrambled to gather myself and our daughter together and head out the door to take it to him – 30 minutes away. 

I grabbed my materials for Bible study – it was my night to lead and this disruption of my schedule frustrated me. Didn’t he know I needed time to prepare? 

After rushing to where I thought he was, I had no luck finding him. Getting more and more frustrated, I had to give up – I was going to be late for Bible study.

(Are you laughing yet? Do you see where I’m going?)

Settling in at our study, I realized that in my own rush out the door, I also had forgotten a piece of paper, the one that contained the Scriptures I was going to use to pray over the group.

Don’t try to tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!  Hubba.

Almost immediately, the words to a song I’ve been hearing a lot lately came to mind. Casting Crowns sings “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” The line is:
“A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided.”

Oh, if that wasn’t me tonight (and lots of other times, too).

But thankfully, God’s message in our study tonight was also for me. We are studying Jonah. Chapter 3, verse 1 says: “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.”

On my own, I might have glazed over that verse and missed its meaning. But tonight, our teacher pointed out how merciful and gracious our God is that He continually gives us second chances. And third, and fourth and…

As many as it takes.

Thank goodness. Thank goodness He won’t let me sit there with the plank in my eye. That He will use His word and the examples around me to bring me back to His purpose and His grace. And to show me how to treat those around me as well.

Praise God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” James 1:13-14

Barrels overflowed with sweet treats just begging us to indulge. Wandering around the hotel we were staying at for a baseball tournament, the lure of the sugary haven drew us in. Barrel upon barrel was filled to the brim with a variety of candy heaven. It was as if every container was begging us to grab a handful and scoop it into the baskets provided for sugar addicts to overdose upon. Sold by weight, the tempting morsels could add up quickly.

As we browsed through the store, I thought to myself, this will really blow all the progress I’ve been making with my pretty healthy eating plan and exercise commitment. Is it worth it for a few sweet treats? My desire for my health won out and I spend the rest of the time just meandering and reminiscing over the candies from my childhood that had resurfaced in the store.

As I was lingering, I felt a nudge in my spirit. Isn’t this sometimes how we approach things in our lives? We are lured in by the tempting sweetness of life’s pleasures, only to realize later that we are left worse off than before.
  • Relationships we know aren’t good for us
  • The temporary high of retaliation
  • Justifying choices and behaviors that are accepted in the mainstream world
It is not easy to choose the higher road. The path of righteousness that we as believers are called to follow. But, the good news is, we are not supposed to go it alone. We, in our own strength, are not equipped for that journey. Our call, our privilege, is to walk hand in hand with the God of the universe. 

How can anything be too much for us if we really stop and think about who it is we are able to go through this life with? He made it all and He will never allow us to be in a situation that we cannot handle, if we remain closely tied to Him.

It is a struggle, don’t get me wrong. The temptations and lures of this world grab, tug and pull at us from all directions. James tells us about the sin that lives within each of us and how, if let out and left unchecked, can grow and become death.  The enemy uses our inner sinful desires to try and draw us off course. But we, who have the Holy Spirit in us, are empowered to do battle against the rages of this world and the enemy.

It may not be easy, but we are equipped and are not alone.