Blessings

Let’s take a quick inventory of our blessings!

We are in the midst of navigating a new normal. Lots of things are different and a little complicated to navigate. And there certainly have been some heartaches and disappointments along the way.

But, there have also been many blessings, large and small.

If you practice looking for blessings, they will be easier to see. I often say “You will find what you are looking for” and this definitely applies to blessings! I challenge you to make a list of them. Can you come up with at least three each day for a week? I hope you can, but if this exercise stretches you, that’s ok. In times of uncertainty, it is easy to see the unknowns and the difficulties and get caught up in the “What does this mean?” Let’s not lose sight of the blessings while we work towards overcoming the challenges in our daily lives!

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:12-14 NIV

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d and Ready!

This is Part II of a series!

There is nothing like a good stretch that gets the blood flowing. Physical stretching is important. And, as often is the case, the things of the physical world can help us make a connection to the spiritual realm.

We don’t know the twists and turns that are ahead of us — spiritually or physically — but, if we are a bit primed, we can weather them better.

Are you feeling out of shape? Starting with a marathon isn’t the recommended course of action. Building up stamina and strength, day by day, is the way to go. Unfortunately, that is not my general bent. I don’t like doing a little bit of something every day, I like to dive in and really focus. That is great for deep projects but it is terrible for those things that require a daily diligence.

Understanding my personal rhythm will give me the best chance at success. What are the things I can work on in large chunks of time? And what are the “dailies”? When it comes to faith and spiritual growth, there is a daily need to connect with my Creator. For me, it is a pretty consistent awareness of His presence in and through my day. It might not be formal, but I am not that kind of person anyway. But I also benefit from a longer, more in-depth time. A weekend retreat or several intensive Bible studies in a year.

Do you like to do tasks a little at a time? Or do you like to dig deep for extended periods of time? Does it change depending on the task?

I love that we were all created uniquely! Thank you, God!

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

Here is Part I: S-t-r-e-t-c-h

Aligning

I am one of those people who can hear different perspectives on situations. I can be empathetic and see the why behind the what — and those whys only serve as explanations, not excuses.

Being empathetic can be exhausting, particularly when I am being asked to choose a side and take a stand. If I am asked to align myself with someone or a position, you can bet that I will be taking a close look at it and praying about it. And, sometimes, that takes time.

I can love people. My heart can be broken for people. But to align with them means we need to be on the same page. Unfortunately, a lot of times we aren’t even in the same book, let alone on the same page. I will not try to prove I care about a situation by surrendering my beliefs. I do care, but if I need to take action, it needs to be in line with what I believe.

Aligning my heart and behavior with God is a lifetime pursuit. Sometimes I am simply terrible at it. I mainly need to not rely on my own strength for change but on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. And I need to pray for the willing spirit to follow God’s lead to those places where I would not have wanted to go on my own. Whatever He has for me to do comes out of His work in my heart. His work has been going on for 50+ years and He clearly is not done yet. I will be a work in progress until I die, and then I will be at peace!

The closer I am aligned to God, the easier it is to see His work around me. Of course, I can choose to not participate but then that tells me that I am not terribly closely aligned with Him. Walking with God changes my heart to be more like His.

If you are in the midst of a relationship challenge, don’t underestimate the power of God to change the hearts of all parties involved. Pray for the one you are at odds with for 30 days. Start out slow and ask God to bless that person. Then, as the days go by, deepen what you pray for and ask God to bless that person in a variety of ways. Find Scriptural prayers to pray for that person, but you don’t have to mention it to them. Let it be a time between you and God.

This is a great way for God to align your heart with His!

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 ESV

 

 

Discerning

20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
    and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
and gracious words promote instruction.

22 Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent,
    but folly brings punishment to fools. Proverbs 16:20-22 NIV

The wisdom in Scripture is right there for us. It always amazes me and I don’t know why because it has been true throughout my life.

God’s Word is timeless, relevant, and true. It’s reliable, instructive, and consistent. And it is sufficient to address our yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

As you seek to understand what is happening in your life, family, community, and world be sure to listen. There are endless perspectives and pain. In fact, it can be overwhelming. There is a lot going on in. But don’t forget to listen with a Biblical perspective. My heart needs to be aligned with God so I can see what He sees and be moved to do His work.

Lord, give me Your eyes!

Hearing

I have a tendency to ignore a lot of auditory input unless it is what I have chosen.  I just tune it out and, if I can’t tune it out, I leave the room. There are things I don’t like hearing because they pull me in to listen and, sometimes, it isn’t good stuff to listen to for whatever reason. Also. sometimes listening is hard work.

Let’s take the coronavirus news as an example. At first, I was hearing so much that I had to stop and listen a bit. In the initial days of the coronavirus, when there was so much conflicting information, I had to weigh some things against my mind and heart. I heard a few illogical things. Things that, when I heard them, I thought — that makes no sense.

But then, it was front and center all day long. If the news was on, I tuned it out. The conflicting reports. The ever changing recommendations. And the variety of responses from the public. Hearing from all of the available sources on the coronavirus: from the CDC to the medical field to the state officials to other nations to business owners to struggling families is a lot to hear.  The perspectives are never ending. And there are not enough hours in the day to hear it all. It isn’t that I don’t have compassion or care about what this means, but I cannot solve this problem.  I can support those close to me who are struggling. I can pray for the vaccine makers to find what they need to find. I can pray for people to love one another, share their resources with those in need, and help in the ways they are called. I can do those things, too. I can listen to my friends as they process and grieve what this means for them. I can do what God is calling me to do.

In the end, here is what I do to limit my exposure to the coronavirus — I wash my hands more. I wear a mask when I am out in public. I don’t hang out in big gatherings.  I had to find a sustainable path for myself.  Mind you, I may get it Covid-19. It seems to be lurking everywhere — all across the world. And whether I live or die, it’s ok. I have peace. I have the blessed assurance of Heaven.

Scripture does not address the coronavirus but it does address the fear the coronavirus brings. Yes, there have been heartbreaking deaths — people dying alone with their families unable to be near them but who desperately want to be there. There have been a lot of hard things from livelihoods being completely disrupted to serious financial challenges. Of course, this situation has made my life uncomfortable and stressful in a few ways, but I am thankful that I have God’s peace. God’s promise is not that we will have an easy life. This is Earth, after all, not Heaven.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

I am so glad that verse is tucked into my heart. I even know it set to music, which is a bonus. Music always helps me memorize!

When there are sounds all around me, disrupting my day, I need to investigate them. I’ll talk more about Listening next time.

God’s blessings on your week!
Liz

Listening

These past few weeks I have been listening to a wide range of perspectives and attitudes. The range of beliefs and “truths” is mind-boggling. The range of experiences are eye-opening. And, as expected, there are a lot of suggested solutions out there.

Something has to change. There is death and destruction in this world. And, yet, there are good things happening in the world, too. It is important to see both because only seeing the death can be heart-wrenching and lead one to hopelessness. However, if one only focuses on the “good”, the picture is incomplete. There is clearly a wide range of both.

We are clearly not there yet. And where is there, anyway?

We can dream for this — take a listen…. but it isn’t based in reality.

From my perspective, we will never get to the place where this world is perfect and safe for all.  This is Earth, after all. Unfortunately, all people in all stages of life will not be cared for and protected. And, sadly, there will always be hunger. While our “technology” is advancing in amazing ways since the beginning of time, our interpersonal skills have not. Our hearts are wicked. Sin abounds. We haven’t figured out how to stop murdering one another and retaliating wrongs. But that doesn’t mean we stop working towards it.

“What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV

We should not be surprised how quickly avenging can turn to revenging. Nor should we be shocked at the bitterness stored up in the hearts of people.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV

We should take a long hard look at ourselves. Cumulative and lasting change comes when our hearts are reconciled with God. And, even then, there will not be true “peace on Earth”. But, as people are reconciled to God and recognize their propensity toward sin and seek to turn away from it, there is hope. As we each walk towards God, from wherever we are in the world, we are headed in the same direction. And God changes our hearts to be more like His. And we can work with God to bridge the cavernous divides.

There is no true healing apart from the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It starts with me and my heart — when I let God take away my “justified response” and my anger. There are many, many ugly things that happen in life to many of us. If we choose to harbor unforgiveness, we are choosing a life of bondage.  One great book that I have read and re-read through the years is by R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness. I have bought multiple copies and given them away. I don’t do that very often for books.

As I listen, there is hurt, loss, injustice, and anger as well as a lot of justification for violence and further killing. Dwelling in an ugly place with people who are angry only brings more ugliness. I continue to listen to a wide range of perspectives, but I will hear them through God’s Word. I can’t listen to the voices of the day without hearing the words and the proposed solutions and comparing them to what is in God’s Word. There is, and will always be, a lot of false prophets out there — wolves in sheeps clothing. But there are a lot of voices who, though human, who offer a lot of Godly insight, rooted in Scripture.

This is Part II. Hearing was the first post.

May God reveal His wisdom and perspective as you examine your own heart today!

 

 

 

 

S-t-r-e-t-c-h!

If I haven’t done the work, I won’t be ready.

Don’t worry, I don’t think my salvation depends on the things I do. It absolutely does not. But, since I am in a relationship with God, communication is important. Stepping out in faith is a part of the package and sometimes it is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h!

Stretching helps me be ready for what is next.

Recently, I tried to do something I have done many times before. This time, however, it took a lot more effort than I care to admit. What happened in the time between when I last did this activity and now? Plenty of nothing.

And just like that, I wasn’t ready for what I wanted to do.

It was discouraging and maddening. And a not-so-gentle reminder of how abilities can disintegrate when not used on a regular basis. It feels like I am starting over.

Of course, life is about starting over — a lot!

And it seems like faith works the same way. I have my core faith. My baptism promise. My confidence in God’s ongoing work in my heart and life. And when I abide in Him, my roots stretch and grow. When I don’t, I can’t expect to have a rich relationship. God always meets me where I am and patiently waits for me. But life will always put demands on me. I would much rather be stretched and molded into God’s perspective so I can choose to respond in a Godly way to the circumstances around me. I want to be sensitive to His guidance and leading and ready to do the next thing. If I always have to stop and start from square one, I won’t be in spiritual shape for what is next.

Naturally, God is there, ready for me. It doesn’t matter if I am two steps forward or ten steps behind. My story is His-story so He uses all of it and redeems it all.

His love brings about my response. Allowing Him to grow my faith and trust is a part of the process!

Even though Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians, it reminds us that growing in faith increases or capacity for other things.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV

God’s blessings on your week!
Liz

Good Space

Things are headed into the direction of new normal. In the midst of this world-wide craziness, there are personal events living in the shadow of the coronavirus: births, deaths, marriages, job loss, graduations, anniversaries, and more. Time keeps on moving forward. But, with all the changes, I feel a little stuck.

There are so many adjustments! I consider myself a fairly flexible person, but this has been a lot of adaptation — for everyone! There may be people to care for all around you but be sure to care for you! You won’t be much help if you are not in a good space!

When I think of a “good space” I most naturally think in the emotional and spiritual realm. But, I would add physical in here, too. What are the tasks you are gearing up for this week? Can you create space in your week to…

Get encouragement from God’s Word?
Do you have a verse you can ponder and pray over for this week?

Do some form of regular exercise?
Even a quick walk around the block can help!

Plan healthier meals?
Or make sure you are having healthy snacks and extra water…

Journal your thoughts and concerns?
There is something about the act of writing things down that helps them leave my brain.

Find a few energizing and encouraging songs to help you get motivated?
Music is powerful. What is the soundtrack of your day?

Connect with a friend?
Write a letter, make a phone call, or plan a Skype chat!

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10 NIV

May God grant you “good space” for the tasks ahead!
Liz

The Gift of Time

It’s a new day, a new week, and a new plan for us. We are getting closer to our new normal as our youngest two moved back to their apartment. All of the activities we carefully made for this year are in the circular file and we are back at the drawing table.

For those of you who, like me, are experiencing a schedule that looks something like the wide open west, this is a unique opportunity to look over your schedule. As you look to planning the next month or so, an important clue is to think about what you are longing for — what have you missed during this time of restriction? What are the things that are you are relieved are off the table?

So many of our days are outlined by things we have to do and that is definitely a part of living life here on Earth. But, we do have a lot of choices in our day and today is a great day to invest in a relationship that you value. Reach out! Make a connection. Send a card. Make a phone call.

For those of you who are juggling so much that you are exhausted and you collapse in bed every night, better days are on the way. Hang tight. Reach out for help. And, hopefully, you are experiencing some positive things along the way.

Resting in His Grace,
Liz

You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7

Is it Saturday?

In some ways, it feels like it has been a year of Saturdays. Our youngest two have been staying with us and we have not been traveling. Our schedule is not at all the same. And we continue to wait for what is next. New things have become regular and many “regular” things have disappeared from my day/week.

It is hard to predict what will be next. How differently will things look? How differently will my life look? And, in the midst of all of the changes and disruptions, can I still give praise and honor to my Creator?

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord. Psalm 150:6

Everyone has some changes to adapt to and that means everyone is expending energy getting used to them. We are all a bit depleted — and maybe not accomplishing as much as normal. We will all need some extra patience in the days to come.

But, as long as we are breathing, we can give praise. The circumstances of the day may change but Jesus does not:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Thank you, Lord, for being the constant in these crazy days! Praise you for all you are doing! Amen!