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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Perfect View

Interesting title for an obviously NOT perfect view of the sunset the other night.


Of course, I was out "chasing sunsets" as my husband would say.

But I wasn't chasing them.

I think they chase me.

It's one of the ways God speaks to me ....


Actually I was out doing errands, being intentionally SLOW, not being in a hurry in case there was something to see.

And sure enough, as I pulled into the parking lot at the post office, I glanced over to see this beautiful view. I couldn't wait to get out and get a photo of it. All I had with me was the camera on my iPhone. I got out of the car to get that perfect shot before heading in . . . 

and was so bummed that the power lines ruined my sunset shot!

Or so I thought.

Truth is I needed that "imperfect shot" to write this blog, for Him to speak to me . . . what would there have been to say if it had not been for the power lines in the way?

Oh, it would have been a beautiful picture of the sunset - shouting out the glory of God.

But you know what?

It still is.

There is a beautiful sunset shouting out the glory of God.

When I focused on the sunset and not the power lines, I see that.

It would've been great if I could physically changed my position - got to a better vantage point to get that clear unobstructed view. Sometimes in life you can change you position. But there are many times you cannot. You need to find the beautiful in life as it is.

Because the sunset - the beauty, the glory, the presence - It's still there.

All there.

The question is how.

How do I change my perspective?

The answer is in the looking.

Looking for opportunities to be grateful.

Because that's how I change my position.

It's all in my perspective.

Gratitude.


If you're looking for a book that showcases a life of gratitude, read Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts. In case you haven't noticed, I started reading it last week. And it just reinforces what God started with me so many years ago - opening my eyes to see. The beauty all around me - in the big and in the little. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Open the Door

"I ask Him to strengthen you by his Spirit - not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength - that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in."
                                   -Ephesians 3:16 &17a MSG

A question has been asked lately. The words came from someone else besides our pastor and he was quick to acknowledge that. But the Lord Jesus originally asked the question, and the question remains:

Have you learned to love?

This passage in Ephesians 3:7-21 is about Christ's extravagant love. Exceeding the limits of reason or necessity, more than necessity . . .

Lavish - marked by profusion or excess, expended in abundance (comes from the Middle English laves or lavage, which seems to be from the Middle French lavasse, lavache which means downpour of rain, or laver which means to wash).

I don't think you can learn to love until you know His love. I mean know it by experience. Not just recite verses. Or talk about it. Or study it. But you have to experience it; poured out on you, in abundance, in excess because this love has washed over you.

One day over the Christmas break, I was sitting in the early morning hours (thanks to the puppy who woke me ;-) pondering that question.

Have I learned to love?

As Christ loves?

Because that is the only love to compare to.

Hardly . . .


for love is patient (Can I get in the bathroom before 10 p.m. at night? 3 bathrooms for 19 adults & kids = patience),

love is kind (What has been my tone of voice to my husband, my children, my family? Umm, not so kind. My inner tone, the mumblings about slow drivers, etc.? Again, not so kind)

it does not envy (I wish I had the that aspect of the life she has)

it does not boast (Did you see what my child did?)

it is not proud (Well, at least my child is not throwing a tantrum - at this moment!)

it does not dishonor others (You can go first - your kids are younger)

it is not self-seeking (it would be easier for me to not have to do x, y, or z)

it is not easily angered (I know you didn't mean what you said, you were acting out of hurt; I'm full of the Holy Spirit's oil so that comment/action will rub right off of me)

it keeps no record of wrongs (When was the last time you ______? I shouldn't have to even ask that question)

Love does not delight in evil (when someone else hurts, I hurt)

but rejoices with the truth (freedom for those in emotional bondage)

It always protects (I'm choosing not to go there in my mind, because that doesn't line up with what Christ has said),

always trusts (God, I'm trusting you with the outcome of my son's new girlfriend in another country),

always hopes (closely related to trust, it means to expect with desire . . . hmmm)

always perseveres (I'm not giving up on a situation/outcome because You are faithful).

Love never fails. (It is complete - it accomplishes, achieves, gains, reaches, succeeds - always)

As I stopped to think about my thoughts and actions that were being tried during this joyous family celebration aka craziness . . . the spirit allowed the words of the question to cut through. Have you learned to love?

Day by day, learning to love. It's a process. Am I better today than I was a year ago? I sure can't do it on my own "brute strength," although I try. I have to let Him in, invite Him in - daily, moment by moment. That is how He strengthens me with a "glorious inner strength."
I pray that we will all open the door to Him, invite Him in and that He will live in us - through His glorious strength inside of us.









PS I couldn't resist adding the pictures of these different doors. After all, none of us look the same so why should the doors representing us look the same :-)

What's In Your . . .

-from October 18, 2011

Wallet?

No. This is not the Capitol One commercial.


What's in your

... heart?

HOW he gets to the answer is the amazing part.


Here I am.

New house.

New city.

New group of gals.

Same me.

But I felt so . . .

   different.

As if I was holding up a mirror to each one and trying to find myself in the reflection.

And some things were not matching up.

Ideals.

Priorities.

Such difference.

And yet such similarities.

For we are all created in His image, to bear His reflection and likeness. When I hold up the mirror and don't like what I see, I'm not holding up the proper mirror.
This is what I felt tonight as I met a group of new women, I find myself holding up a mirror of myself to each of them and comparing myself to them. . . feeling like I am not measuring up in whatever aspect of them seems so different or different ideals. Then He assures me that I have held up the wrong mirror . . .  the one I should be holding up is the mirror that shows that I was made in His image . . . I am to reflect him, not them. And obviously, sometimes it may look quite different. Proverbs 27:19 says As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.


And it goes beyond holding up the wrong mirror. It reaches to the HOW of life.

For the past few years, I have been intrigued and moved by people's life stories. The trials people have walked through and more importantly, HOW they did it. How they got to the other side of the obstacle in the road.

Catherine Marshall writes about her life and how God used it all - the taking of her first husband, the death of a grandchild, new marriage. HOW He used it all. 

Carol Kent writes in her book Between a Rock and a Grace Place, she writes about her christian son who acted in fear and anger, killing his stepchildren's father because he took things into his own hands, and who is now incarcerated for life. Carol shares honestly HOW she gets through each day.

And the latest interest is Gracia Burnham. She and her husband were missionaries in the Philippines and were kidnapped at gunpoint while on a 24 hour vacation . . . she writes about her year as a hostage in the jungles of the Philippines. It was there that God really had her take a look at what was in her heart. All the things she thought she believed and all the daily opportunities to practice what she believed. I wish I could remember the quote from her book In The Presence of My Enemies, but I didn't write it down so you'll just have to read it.

There have been many moments in my life. The big one at the moment - a different trial. Our youngest son will most like need outpatient surgery in early 2012.

I know God can heal Him and I know that He is willing, but I have this settled impression that that's not the issue (the willingness or the ability). The issue, it seems, is whether or not I trust him. Not do I trust the doctors, but do I trust Him? If our son is not miraculously healed by then, do I trust His heavenly Father to bring our son through. Or do I live in fear . . . that something will happen to my precious youngest son . . .

The verse of the day on my note card as we were going to another appointment spoke so deeply to my spirit to confirm this . . . I was praying and asking the Lord what He had to say about all this. And the verse...

Duet. 8:2 ...to humble you and test you to see what's in your heart

Another lesson in "praying through" - not wanting out of a situation, but instead wanting what more of Him, what He is trying to reveal about Himself or yourself. 

Lord, I act like an independent cowboy, but I want to be dependent on You.

The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror
when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me -Tim McGraw


Do you trust me? He asks.

The Voice of Truth

-from May 2011

PS For those of you who read this before I realized I had left all this unedited junk at the end, I apologize. That's what I get for posting so late at night ;-)

Why do I hit the override button on hearing God's voice? For years I have prayed to hear Him and talk with Him . . . and as it began to become a daily reality that yes, God loves to talk with me, I was so excited! And today, I hear His voice, and he beckons like He did long ago "Today, if you hear my voice, do not harden your heart."

Yet from time to time, I question.

The Voice of Truth.

Deception comes in,
just like it did at the fall of man
. . . "did God really say?"

Last week while I was jogging and praying, thinking about our upcoming move and thanking Him for finding a townhouse, I heard, "That is nice, but it's not my best for you." He was talking about the townhouse that we had put an application in with a great commute and ample space for our family.

Sure, in our dream world, it was missing a little - community amenities (park, pool, space to play outside, trails, playgrounds, tennis courts), and a backyard that didn't look into the neighbor's townhouse, but instead backed up to the woods or something like that. But, hey this townhouse was pretty nice and you couldn't beat the commute.

So that message didn't seem to fit as all was going ahead with turning in the application and having the lease about to be sent to us for signing . . . until today.

Why didn't I trust the Voice of Truth?

But I must say, looking back, the Voice of Truth gave me peace. I know that when that call came and I had to tell my hubby and the kiddos, who were disappointed, that someone else had already rented the townhouse - their paperwork got sent to the wrong place causing a delay, that when God closes one door, he has something else and BETTER in mind . . . and he so did! That was not God's best for us.

So I hop on the Internet, looking up new options. I find a listing freshly posted 5 hours ago and do the quick math regarding the time change from Guam to the East Coast so I don't wake someone up in the wee hours of the morning. Yes, it's available, we're the first caller. His best for us. I best be listening to the Voice of Truth. 

From The Message: REMIX Solo Devotional, "His energy is rising and in response to a tough situation, he is letting it drive him to God."

From Psalm 53 in the Message version, "He's looking for the one who is God-expectant, God-ready."

From Make Haste by FJ Roberts: "When you listen to me in any circumstance, I will bring light and understanding...I will bring peace...and bring into focus the TRUTH that will set you free."

From Make Haste by FJ Roberts: "to doubt is to ignore My presence, not reckon on My power but on your own resources, which makes you aware of you limits, and you feel failure and that is the atmosphere that precludes operation of omnipotence."


Other instances happened within the last few weeks. I desperately needed to talk to the kids' pediatrician and resolve some issues; getting through by phone was not going to happen. So as I'm driving by the clinic, I think about pulling in. But then the reality. It's 5:10 p.m and the clinic is closed. Yet, I park in the lot and walk to the door - still not believing my actions. Someone happens to be coming out and lets me in. I walk back to the office and wait around at the desk because I hear people talking and I know someone who works in the office is still there. Sure enough, she (the pediatrician) just got out of a meeting and wanders down the hall, and we talk.

One last one: All day long, my friend came to mind - more than the just thinking of you thing. It was persistant. I left her messages on home and cell phones because I had this burning question I felt I needed to ask her. "What do you need?" That was what I was supposed to ask her. "Really, God? Okay . . . . You're on and I've been a little 'off.'"

So the next day, my friend and I finally catch up . . . wonderful! And before we hang up, I tell her I have a question for her. Even though it may sound a little strange, I feel compelled to ask.

"What do you need?"

I tell her to tell me whatever comes to mind, whether for today or yesterday. "That's funny," she says, "Just yesterday I was thinking I really need someone to be real in my life right now, because I feel like I'm DONE!"

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness in me.

From Make Haste by FJ Roberts "I have surprises waiting for you which you need My guidance not to miss..."

God Can Handle You

Seriously?!

Are you sure?

I have seen me lately.

I have seen what lies deep inside my heart.


But why do I think He doesn't?

What God spoke to me through this SOLO devotional entitled "God Can Handle You" and my friend's blog is that being real about my feelings makes me feel vulnerable. And I don't like that feeling. I have this "strong woman" attitude that I picked up through the trials of life. Yet, He gently whispers, "Lay it down - I've got you."

Job was honest with God and about God; his friends were not. Job had the passionate relationship with God rather than a dutiful one. Being honest with God means negative emotions. And guess what? God can handle my negative emotions (even when I can't).


After a little pity party for myself the other day, I was telling God how upset I was about a certain someone, saying they are sorry but no actions to back it up. "How many times?" I thought, along with "I don't want to hear 'I'm sorry' AGAIN! I want them to consider me." There was the knife piercing to the dividing of joint and marrow. The Spirit quietly and gently whispered in love, "Now you know how I feel."

ALL THE JUNK - - - laying down the shame is just as important.

Five months later, this blog sits, unfinished. I heard the words to Barlow Girl's "I Need You to Love Me" and was going to write a whole other blog, but it seems the lyrics tie in to my thoughts last week.

My distance is just that. MY distance. I put it there. He did not. He has not moved nor does he walk away as nothing can separate me from His love including me - He is not afraid nor turned away by what He sees.
Why, why are You still here with me
Didn't You see what I've done?
In my shame I want to run and hide myself
But it's here I see the truth
I don't deserve You

[Chorus:]
But I need You to love me, and I
I won't keep my heart from You this time
And I'll stop this pretending that I can
Somehow deserve what I already have
I need You to love me

I, I have wasted so much time
Pushing You away from me
I just never saw how You could cherish me
'Cause You're a God who has all things
And still You want me

Your love makes me forget what I have been
Your love makes me see who I really am
Your love makes me forget what I have been

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taking out the trash . . .

Unusual title? Yes.
Weekly chore/task? Yes.
Enjoyable? Not in the least.
Necessary? Oh, so very.

Spiritual connotations/connections? You bet! (or as they say in Minnesota "You betcha!)

We just moved in. Got the boxes unpacked. Okay, they are at least dumped out and piles of junk are getting transferred to their new resting spot. The kids have been cleaning out and so have I. And I am amazed at all the junk we have carried around ... some of it for years. Some of it just silly McDonald's toys or things you think you'll need later.

So I got up earlier than normal to get the trash out on time last week. It took awhile to get the six bags plus the canister nicely lined up before the garbage man shows up at 7 a.m. And what a relief that was - gone was the trash, the clutter, the junk.

And I'm thinking - what kind of trash/junk have I been carrying around in my heart? You know, the stuff that comes out in the daily living of life, sometimes when you least expect it. Some of it I have been holding onto for years with no need to, certain attitudes and thoughts. Some of these are just trivial stuff like the McDonald's toys, but good grief - they are taking up space! Some things I thought were important, or that I would need some day. And some of the trash is made up of worries and concerns or cares.

He asks me to lay it down. To take it to the curbside and say "Adios." Because once that trash has been hauled away, you're not getting it back. And trust me, I wouldn't want it back. After all, He is my Good Shepherd and He knows His sheep. Plus, sheep don't determine their own well-being; they don't need to think about anything other than following the Shepherd, let alone haul trash around.

I'm calling you, My people, to remove the garbage and take out the trash. But, I am speaking to you spiritually that you must consider and remove whatever has been an offense to your spirit and caused defilement of your spiritual environment. Look for attitudes and motivations that are not pleasing in My sight, says the Lord, and make adjustments where necessary. I will guide you in this process, for it is My desire to lead you to complete freedom from bitterness and ungodliness. I am speaking to you, beloved. Don't ignore your responsibility to look at yourself and not others in this regard. -Marsha Burns in Spirit of Prophecy

Butterfly Gifts - More than Good Enough

The elusive Monarch butterfly. I say elusive because he won't let me get a picture of him. (So I had to put a picture of the Guam butterfly.) But he has been around lately. At the most God-incidence of times . . . to remind me of His precious promises to me.

#1 Moving in day - no moving trucks loaded with our stuff to put in the house, but it was the first time to see the house (and move in the luggage). The townhouse that God had opened up for us hours after the one that was GOOD ENOUGH fell through. This one had everything we wanted in a townhouse. What should happen to be fluttering about in our front bushes?

#2 Pick up our new Puppy day - as we walk to the door to pick up the puppy - the birthday present that keeps on giving because it came so early . . . and there it is - the butterfly.

#3 And yesterday . . . we had gone to a cabin for the Labor Day weekend, or at least most of it. Summer is winding down and that's a whole other blog ;-) Anyway, the dog had a rough night and was up early. Everyone else was asleep, so we went for a walk on the nature trail. I had been wanting to walk the trail but it was so warm the day before and no one showed any interest. So off we went. Just me and the pup . . . and the butterfly. There he was again. Right at the edge of the path. As I was trying desperately to hold my cell phone still enough to get the shot, he flutters off and I am left with an empty picture of the bush he was resting on. Not far away, I see him land on an old stump. He just sits there - wings open and close, open and close. I wait. He's too far away for the shot on my cell phone and I am wishing I had my camera with, but I don't. Eventually, the pup and I move on. We made the loop and I came back to see if he was still there. And to my surprise, he was.

One  last long drawn out story - this time no butterfly, but the light went on in my head and heart about how symbolic the butterfly showing up has been.

Our family had been going back and forth about the second vehicle thing. We needed another one because we THOUGHT I would be driving my hubby to the metro and picking him up every day so I'd have his truck during the day. Great plan - for about a week and half. The office got the official notice they were moving. So now he would either ride the metro on occasional days or drive to the new office because the metro doesn't go there. So much for our plan. But back to the vehicle - what to get. My practical side just wanted something older, big enough and good enough to be safe and get us around for the next couple years. But my husband wanted more - so I was praying daily. Would you speak to him? Yell at him? He is NOT being practical! I give up - what do you want? How do we meet in the middle. Thought we just wanted a compact SUV but after disappointing test drives, either we didn't like the feel of the ones we tried or they had NO cargo space . . . so we move up a size. Not as good gas mileage, but not terrible and plenty of space plus 3rd row seats if necessary (or a lot of cargo space). Trying to find a 2011 that is still considered new vehicle but not the 2012 price with upgrades he wanted. The upgrades didn't matter to me, though. I just wanted GOOD ENOUGH.

So we finally find one - it's beautiful. Too beautiful and too fancy, I think. Why does he want this so much? To make me look good and feel good, and because I deserve it, he says.

And it hits me . . . how often do I say the same to God. In my thoughts and prayers and conversations with Him. Well, "this is GOOD ENOUGH..." but He wants the best for me. He wants to spoil me. Because He loves me.

And the butterflies - they show up from time to time. Just to remind me of His love for me. His best wins out over my GOOD ENOUGH.

Seasons . . . time for change

Change.
 
But I just got this figured out. I don't want to have to figure out something new.
  
The maps "app" on my iPhone and I had become good friends. I knew how she worked. Granted she didn't talk to me like "Susan," our beloved nickname for the voice of my husband's fancy GPS app, but we had a thing going. I realized something was lacking though. In a place this size with streets overlapping and winding around like a wadded up ball of yarn, I needed someone to talk me through the directions. I couldn't just look down every now and then. And besides, half the time it just didn't make sense because I didn't have the back ground information; I couldn't see what the map knows but didn't tell me. Like "Turn left and stay in the left lane." "Stay right for 1/4 mile." But "Susan" knows all that.
 
So my hubby downloaded her to my phone yesterday and today I was trying it out. I was going somewhere I had been several times before so I almost know the way. But she wanted to send me a different way, a faster way. I didn't trust her on the way over - besides I was already late. On the way home, I thought I might as well try it. Faster it was - she knew better which streets to go on. New scenery for me to enjoy. Change.
 
Liking the change?
 
Sometimes the change into the new is fun and exciting. But sometimes I crave the routine. And how I must remind myself that He holds the map and He is the navigator because He sees the big picture and He knows the ins and outs of the details of my life.

His prompting today is recurring - ENGAGE! Don't sit back or hold back because it's all new again. I have work for you here. Whatever that means. I know it is different than it was last season.
Heaven forbid - and I mean that, that I would stay stuck where I am. Refusing to grow, to learn, to take the next step on the journey.
Steps in the change.

"Here it is - the last sunset of the summer." Wow! As the words came out of some one's mouth and we sat enjoying what there was to see of the sunset that night, it hit me that I hadn't dealt with the change of seasons in two years. Oh, I missed it alright, but I had forgotten the reality of it. I lived in perpetual summer - one season repetitiously for two years. 
Another step in change was the realization hit yesterday as it was officially "cold" in the morning; it had been cool, but now it was 50 degrees outside - the coldest this body had felt was possibly in the upper 60s and with lots of humidity! It went from summer to fall in one day - enjoying the warm sunshine and then "Wow, I need a jacket."
What if I don't like this season?

The very thing I am so excited for thrills me and makes me nervous all at the same time. But what if I am so used to the hot weather that I don't really enjoy the cold anymore? And the message is that maybe I feel the same way about spiritual seasons. God is the author of seasons and I know there are seasons in our lives . . . sometimes they begin and end abruptly as this onset of fall here. And I think I'd rather have the smooth transition, but sometimes the abruptness is necessary.
We abruptly left a season behind in Guam. I'm still trying to figure out what this new one entails, but walking away from squadron responsibilities and duties where it's ALL yours one day and the next day, it is not, leaves you a little sad, a little lost, a little wondering "Who am I now?"

Yet His gentle reminder comes, "I will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more."

PSALM 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.