The Good I Don’t Do

I remember when I was in my teens at church and the following reading would come up in the pericopes (those readings that follow the three-year lectionary of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

I used to feel so bad for the elder that had to stand up and read from Romans 7 in front of the congregation because it is so complicated to read aloud:

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

Even as a youngster, I could relate to the concept of this challenge. And as I have moved through my life, the reality of it all is ever-present. What a struggle. It is a struggle for each of us!

How is it possible to be wretched and yet also be worthy of being rescued? Only through Jesus. Through Christ alone!

On the Road,

Liz

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I’ll Pray For You

Have you ever been asked by someone to pray for them? I find it a very humbling experience. I often wonder, “Who am I?” to receive such a request that represents such vulnerability and trust of me. It comes from a place of deep need and usually the situation is hard. Sometimes, no details are given. Just a “Please pray.”

Of course, we can all use prayer. But most of the time when someone directly asks you to pray for them they have something quite specific in mind. And sometimes they can’t even talk about it. When I don’t know what is going on – and sometimes even when I do – I pray all around the person and the situation, whatever it is. Some of the areas I pray about include:

  • Physical health
  • Emotional health
  • Spiritual health
  • Employment
  • Family relationships
  • Training/Education
  • Financial concerns

I am always thankful for the opportunity to pray over a prayer request. The situation is often on my mind at various points in a day/week. And while a friend may ask for prayer on a specific thing, my mind always wanders and broadens the prayer. Sometimes knowing more about a situation is helpful as I pray but it isn’t necessary. Sometimes people like to explain their requests, which is fine. Others may be at a loss for words (or the needs are very private) so to make things easier for them I might say “just give me one word and I will cover it”. I can pray quite a bit off of one word because I just try to cover all the bases. When I am at a loss for words or direction, I just remind God that He knows the situation and knows the need and I ask Him to take care of it/them.

Here is an example of me covering the bases on just using a name:

Heavenly Father, Bless ______ today. Bless their finances, their work/school tasks and their work/school relationships. If there are medical concerns, bring them to light.   If the challenge is financial, please make provision for them. Be with their family and family relationships during this time. Help this time of struggle be a time when their relationship with You is strengthened and they come to depend upon You for their every need. If they are headed down a difficult path, continue to give them warnings and give them eyes to see the warnings and a spirit that responds. You know their needs and You love them much deeper than I so I trust them and their circumstance into Your Hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

When someone asks for prayer, it immediately deepens my connection with them. I appreciate their willingness to be vulnerable with me but it is also precious that they know God wants to hear prayers from them and on their behalf. So often we look at prayer as a last resort — after we have tried everything else! This week, consider asking someone to pray on your behalf with a request large or small. It might feel awkward in the beginning but I do believe it has a tendency to strengthen your relationship with that person. Your willingness to request prayer might open the door for them to also share a request with you. And those are the types of relationships that help sustain us while we navigate life on Earth!

I believe we all have an important prayer perspective to offer. If you want to know more about my thoughts on prayer perspectives, click here!

On the Road,

Liz

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His strength. His peace.

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There are so many people I know and love in the middle of situations that are very challenging and yet they persevere. I know it is because they are relying on God as their source of strength even if it is just one step at a time, one day at a time.

How easy it is for us to think, at least initially, that our strength, education, bank account, or resilience will get us through every situation. “The world” chides us for being weak or dependent both directly and indirectly. If we are indoctrinated by that garbage for too long it can seep into our souls and cause some problems. We might try to “power through” or “make it on our own” but it really can only get us so far.  We might look down on others for needing assistance but, if we live long enough, we will eventually find ourselves in circumstances that can bring us to our knees:

Aging parents. Disabilities. Death. Broken Relationships. Job loss. Natural disasters.

When I am on my knees it seems I am better able to see and hear the things from God that I need to know. I am not quite as distracted by the other nonessential things because my focus is on seeking the strength for the day. In some situations we might find we need assistance from others and it helps us get along. In other situations, we might find ourselves completely alone, with utter dependence on God and His provisions.

When we are smart or strong or physically able or have “enough” do we let God be our strength and our salvation?

strength1wThat is a challenge for me. Sometimes I get confused about how I am making it through life or a certain situation. It is very difficult to shut out the world’s way of thinking that everything is up to me and my efforts. The more resources I have at my disposal the easier it is to think that I am handling it all. Once I think it is all about what I am achieving, I get frustrated when things don’t pan out according to plan. But have I really dreamed up the best plan? It seems rather empty to chase after physical things and try to control all the things that happen in my life. The thought that I have control (and even make the best choices in situations when I can exercise control) is an illusion. Life is not all about me. Life is not all about you. My life is not my own. And neither is yours!

Have you been in a place where the outcome is out of your control and you just need to trust God to give you His strength?

Heavenly Father ~ give us your strength for this day and bless us with your perfect peace! Amen.

On the Road,

Liz

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Making Time to Be Still

nomarginsawHave you ever read a book with minimal margins? I haven’t seen one and I don’t know for sure that one exists but just imagine one with me.

What about a life with minimal margins?

We all have different margin needs. All the things listed here are great things. But there are things missing too. And, likely, over time or in different circumstances our needs for margins change. I know mine have. Different stages of life have different demands. But when I am running from one thing to the next and I don’t have any space built in, I run ragged. I am definitely not as patient. And I am not as open to possibly wonderful things because they don’t fit into my schedule. I don’t have time to be sick or visit with a friend who might be unexpectedly passing through town or even notice God trying to get my attention.

I can’t live like that.

I don’t believe many people can. Making space in our day, in our week, and in our lives is important. Sometimes we need to space to regroup. Sometimes we need the space to recharge. Sometimes we need the space because it is important “to be” without any expectation of producing anything. And while God can work in any circumstance, there are times that a quiet space is where we are able to see Him working.  It clears my mind and cleanses my perspective.  Creating space to pray, play, or simply rest is so important!  If I have no margins, there is no room to move.

marginsawBut that isn’t exactly how our world tends to think. It is easy to get caught up in the gain, the advance, the conquer….and sometimes we lose ourselves in the process. Respite from the world’s demands and times to ponder and pray can make our days, our nights, and our responses more informed, more measured, and more calm.

When things are feeling a little crazy for me, I take stock of all I am trying to juggle and I usually see that I need to make some adjustments in my schedule. It is important to evaluate and adjust according to my current circumstances. So, here I am, still clinging to this verse from Psalm 46:10. It reminds me that I am not wonder woman and I am not God. I don’t know it all. I don’t have to do it all. It gives me permission to “be still” and rest in my knowledge of God!

On the Road,

Liz

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Entertaining Angels

conversationwI have a confession to make. I love talking with people but I get very anxious when I am in a position where I need to begin a conversation with a total stranger.

Those of you who know me personally might find this revelation hysterical. I can talk a mile a minute and I love conversation and I love getting to know people. But sometimes I completely freeze up just trying to initiate conversation.

If I am selling things at a Hungarian festival, I don’t have a problem initiating a discussion because someone is coming up to me and is likely interested in what I am selling. But have me seated next to a stranger in a social situation and I really struggle to find my “opening line”. I am sure I overthink it.

But meeting new people and engaging in conversation is so much fun. I am rewarded every time I do it because I learn so much and the conversation is always interesting. And yet I still overthink my opening line so much that I am inhibited to start. I think I am overly concerned I will offend people or appear intrusive. I want to fix that!

There is so much to learn from the people around us. Taking time to have conversation is important. It is easy to become isolated because there is so much tension. There is definitely an art to conversation these days, but there is also a ministry in conversation. With so many people pulled in so many directions it is easy for those who might need a little extra time or encouragement to talk be bowled-over by those who are impatient and in a rush.

Do I take the time to connect with the people God has placed around me?

The life stories I have heard range from heartbreaking to encouraging. Each situation has some nugget of wisdom for me to learn. While there is an art to listening I think the ministry opportunity is in the conversation. Most people will talk for the interaction, not just to hear themselves ramble on… and both parties can gain tremendous insights about one another as well as themselves when there is a dialogue.

hospitalitywThis week, try to look at conversation as ministry and consider how the exchange of experiences and insights benefits both participants in conversation. Remember: being hospitable isn’t something you have to be at home to do! You can be a welcoming and friendly face in a place you have never been before.

On the Road,

Liz

Grace. Period.

 

MyLifewIf you have been out on your own and paying bills for a while you probably know about grace periods and even needed them a time or two. Buy have you thought of a grace period as a time someone needs as they adjust to a new reality?

It takes time to get reoriented after unexpected news.

Receiving either good news or bad news can turn your world upside down. Sometimes a little time and space can help you get readjusted to a new reality.

Have you ever tried to carefully plan something like your life? Personally, I gave up doing that a long time ago. Things change so quickly that I have found I just need to roll with it. I have had a few goals and plans along the way but there have been a few times something equivalent to a tidal wave has rushed over me and I found myself in a place where I need some recovery time; a grace period.

A grace period is a space where I can cocoon, process, pray, scream, and work it out – whatever it is. And then, hopefully, I can move forward with God leading the way into my new reality. It is never an easy process – often it is two steps forward and one step back. Somewhere along the line I realized: this is not my life — I just live it!

When I walk through those crazy moments I come out with a stronger understanding of God’s grace for my every day. And because I have been in desperate need of grace so often myself, I should be more grace-full towards others.

Sometimes we just need grace.

Period.

It isn’t hard to muster up compassion for those who have walked a similar path or those who have extenuating circumstances, but there are some times I get impatient with others as they are processing and then I wonder:

  • Who am I to criticize how someone else is dealing with something?
  • Who am I to rush someone through the stages of grief?
  • Who am I to make assumptions on motives?
  • Who am I to be impatient?

I just need to give some grace, time, and space while they work it out. We are all a work in progress and some of life’s situations are so hard. We don’t have control over many thing that happen but we can control our response. I am praying that grace becomes my first response!

On the Road,

Liz

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Seek Shelter

360px-United_States_of_America_Fallout_shelter_sign

We used to have drills in elementary school in the 70s….fire drills and nuclear war drills. The Fallout Shelter sign was a common sight in schools and other places in our community. Do you remember them? It’s crazy to think that crawling under our desks was going to afford us much protection during a nuclear attack.

Spring rains can bring tornados and heavy flooding. Fires rage and gobble up homes and businesses. Have heard the words “Take Shelter Immediately!” ?Living near New York City at the moment, I like to explore the Big Apple and I often think about the chaos, the fear, and the destruction that occurred on September 11. 2001. I can’t even imagine that day in the city.

Sometimes it is hard to know which way to go.

There are other times that sort of chaos creeps into our lives:

  • A medical diagnosis
  • A job loss or change
  • All the details that go into a move
  • A death
  • An accident
  • An unplanned pregnancy
  • A fractured relationship

Where do you take shelter?

I try to take those things that burden my heart to God. Even when I am at a complete loss for words and I don’t know what to say or think the Holy Spirit intercedes for me!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

But there are times when I am feeling particularly at a loss and I ask for others to pray for me. There is power in sharing our burden. It is encouraging to spend time with someone who provides a time of refuge from the challenges of the world. Praying with, praying for, or just taking time to listen to someone as they sort through their thoughts and feelings is a powerful way to provide shelter for them.

Pray for the eyes to see those who need some shelter. And if you are struggling and need your own, let God and His Word provide you with His covering. I pray you have one or two praying friends who are a safe haven and can provide a bit of sanctuary from the worldly challenges we are all subject to at one time or another.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Gerald Shields for making the fallout shelter image available!

On the Road,

Liz

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