This pandemic was a surprise to me, but it was not a surprise to God.
This has been a year of making plans and readjusting them about 97 times. I am ever hopeful that there will be a new normal that looks somewhat similar to the old normal. But, I confess, I am a little discouraged.
Why even bother to make plans?
I am thankful that I have been relatively calm through this season of unknowns, but I attribute it to my natural tendency to be flexible. I don’t feel the need to be in charge of a lot of things. I also have watched God work out even the yucky things in my life, so I trust His “long run” plan, even though I don’t know all the pieces and parts. And, honestly, I am pretty sure I won’t love all what is coming. But I will try to rest in His grace and mercy, trust Him to right the wrongs, trust Him to comfort me, and be with me as I move forward.
We have today, my friend. Hold your plans loosely and love generously!
For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New English Translation
Have you noticed that when you aren’t paying attention,
things can disintegrate?
A grade in a class.
You just can’t set some things on autopilot and expect they will stay on their path. There is so much happening around us at all times and the important things take intentional effort.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weedsamong the wheat and went away.So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.Matthew 13: 24-26
While we are “sleeping” or distracted or deep in mourning or healing or ___________ (fill in the blank) some things that need our attention can fall by the wayside. Thankfully, God will forgive our inattentiveness and will work with us as we work towards a remedy. There may be some bumps in the road but this is life on Earth — there will always be bumpy roads! I am so thankful that He is merciful!
Yesterday the sermon at church was based on Luke 10:25-37. I have always loved the parable of The Good Samaritan. I hate that the neighbor was robbed and blown off by both the priest and the Levite who ought to have cared more about him, but I am thankful the Samaritan went out of his way to care for the wounded guy.
There seems to be no shortage of people needing mercy these days!
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37 ESV
I love how the Good Samaritan binds up the wounds and makes arrangements for the care of his wounded neighbor. He takes some time to directly care for this man but then he also moves on to what he had set off to do earlier, leaving behind some money for his care. I hadn’t thought about that before. He makes provision for him but isn’t the one to do all the “hands on” work.
As I dug into “mercy” just a wee bit more I didn’t get very far when I realized how many, many, many times we ask for mercy from the Lord. It’s all over God’s Word, particularly in the Psalms. It’s woven into our liturgy. Lord have mercy.Christ have mercy. But mercy isn’t just for us to request and receive. In this parable, Jesus reminds us that mercy is for us to do!
Have I ever been a “good Samaritan”? Sure. But I have more often been the Levite and the priest. And, I am definitely the one who needs and receives an abundance of mercy. I need to remember that more.
When have you experienced mercy? When have you extended it? Do you find yourself withholding mercy because a person hasn’t shown themselves worthy?
Let’s be generous with mercy. We should dole it out at least as often as we request it.
As sinners in a sin full world, we all find ourselves on a broken road. I have a tendency to put good shoes on so I don’t get hurt even though I know I will need to travel down a road. But there are others who fling off every possible protection and run down that broken road, ignoring the glass shards and rusty nails.
These days, I am more cautious…or maybe it is just that I don’t like extra pain.
Do you know someone who seems to always choose the broken road? Be sure to pray for them regularly. If you are in a healthy space yourself and in a position to connect with them, consider that too. They likely need a friend like you, even if they won’t admit it. But you really have to be in a good space to do that so be careful. And know your limitations.
Sometimes we can get caught up in the cycle of brokenness until everything and everyone around us is destroyed. Addiction can do that. Unfortunately, one bad move can jetset us “down the rabbit hole” into chaos and confusion.
Jesus heals the broken — which is each and every one of us and coming to terms with our own brokenness allows us the compassion for others in theirs. It might be easy to think, “I never would have chosen that road.” Except you might have, had your life had a little different look to it.
I am thankful that God is in the business of healing brokenness. Understanding my own need for His mercy and forgiveness helps me be more patient with others in their time of need.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar. [Psalm 51 NIV]
Emphasis makes a big difference in each of those questions. Sometimes we don’t necessarily have an end goal in mind–we are just out and about. Sometimes it’s ok to not know the destination because, truth be told, we often think we have a place where we will end up and we are really disappointed when we don’t ever get there. Or we don’t get there the way we imagined we would.
Sometimes we strive for a goal and find we never get there because we took the wrong path or we had a misinformed goal. For example, if one grows up in a family with a lot of tension or sadness due to money struggles, one might think that amassing a lot of money will lead us to “happiness”. It rarely works that way.
Where do you hope to be and how do you think you might get there?
It is always good to think about our life’s direction in general, but the Lenten season is a great time to consider if we have strayed off the path of forgiveness, grace, mercy, love, service, prayer, kindness, sacrifice, self-control, or [fill in the blank]. Drifting away a bit may not seem so bad when we can see the road but we can quickly lose sight of the road altogether. Sometimes we need to “reset”, get re-oriented, and start again.
GOD’S WORD informs our LIFE and impacts the decisions we make.
So let’s get informed! What does God have to say? Grab your Bible or download a Bible App on your phone. Look for a verse or two you might want to commit to memory during this Lenten season. Write it out on an index card, in your journal, or make a digital image so you can have it on your phone. I would love to see your verse and if you do anything creative with it. Of course, being creative isn’t the point but pondering it is! When we take the time to read God’s Word, ponder, and pray, He changes us. And, we likely will find a new perspective on our travels–both on where we are going and where we have been.
So, where ‘ya headed?
Quick note: Don and I will be “on the road” and I will be posting things as we travel. We would appreciate your prayers for a safe journey!
I do love the routine of the seasons although there are some seasons I like better than others. I like the general predictability of the seasons within a year but even the “unseasonal” events make life interesting.
I have always enjoyed the seasons of parenting and rarely wished the days away. I enjoyed each moment as it came. And if I was in an ugly moment, I knew that it would change shortly. When it was a sweet moment, I savored it knowing it would also move quickly to the next.
I also enjoy the seasons of the Church Year. Today, Palm Sunday, marks the start of Holy Week. It is a very busy week at our church for the entire staff. It probably is at yours as well. There are many people putting in many hours of preparation. Pray for your pastors, musicians, janitorial staff, secretaries, bulletin designers, printers and collators. Pray for the many who will attend church only because it is expected in their family. Pray for God’s Word to be preached effectively and for many ears to hear the Gospel, pure and true.
And as you travel through this Holy Week, consider the walk Jesus took for you. Pray for a greater integration of His gifts of love, mercy, and forgiveness into your life. As His gifts pour out into your life let them flow unrestricted to those around you!
“God couldn’t possibly forgive you for doing that!” or
“God couldn’t possibly have use for you now that you have done [insert your sin here]!” or
“How many times do you think He is willing to forgive [insert repeated offense here]?”
Maybe you have heard those same lies or maybe you’ve heard others. There are days when I get in a rut and I forget that I’m forgiven. That might sound crazy but it can happen after a tough day or a restless night.
How do you recall the promises of God’s forgiveness and restoration?
Attending church where forgiveness is proclaimed following the confession of sins
Witnessing a Baptism
Within the daily routine of our lives, we are always washing something. Take a moment to connect the wordly cleanliness you have set out to achieve and remember your Baptism! Let Him refresh and restore you with a reminder of His Grace! God wants you to remember His forgiveness and Satan would love for you to forget it. Don’t give Satan the edge!
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2 (read the whole Psalm!)
Thankful for His cleaning (though I don’t always like the scrubbing!!)
Do you know people who function day-to-day but their words or action indicate they are wounded? Maybe they speak with anger or make cutting remarks around you and it actually makes it hard to be near them. There are many reasons that people lash out (sometimes they are tired or overwhelmed) and we don’t always get to know the why behind what we see.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. Psalm 38:11
If someone comes to your mind, please lift them up in prayer today. I do think if you see a consistent pattern of ‘meanness’ that there is probably something else going on there. Wounded people wound people…often because of where they are in their pain. And while their actions or attitude might drive you away from them, it is often then that they really need a friend. Whether or not you are called to be that friend, I don’t know. But if God has allowed you to cross paths with this person, your prayer intercession on their behalf is an amazing gift.
If it is you that is wounded, seek healing. God is in the business of transforming ugly circumstances and situations into evidences of His mercy and grace. There are 190 versions of the word ‘heal’ in the New International Version of the Bible. Psalm 38 is a powerful petition from a hurting David. His pain is evident. As you begin your journey of healing, find a friend who will pray for you. Then find a Biblical counselor or pastor to sort out the situation and dig into God’s Word and God’s Truth. God’s healing work often begins with humble hearts.