Thursday, August 30, 2012
"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." Psalm 29:11
I love how God works. I read my devotional book early this morning, and as my daughter and I were doing our morning walk, I tried to think about what I wanted to write about today. Nothing was really coming to me. Sometimes the ideas flow freely and sometimes I get stuck. When I got home from my walk, I turned to my Bible app on my phone and looked at a devotional that I had been neglecting. It spoke to me and inspired me.
This morning I am imagining that I have a dune buggy...a new dune buggy that I am just dying to take to the beach. I don't live anywhere near the beach, so I am picturing myself in my dune buggy on a beach on Ocean Isle, North Carolina...a place my family used to vacation to several years ago. Ok...so I unload my dune buggy and start 'er up...while in the loose sand near the road, it has a hard time moving. The deep, loose sand bogs down the tires and I go nowhere. So, I get out and push my vehicle on toward the water...the wet, packed down sand is firmer and my dune buggy tires can gain some traction and it takes off! My ride along the shoreline is amazing with the sea breeze blowing through my hair! What fun!
When we know God and look to him, we become his people. He blesses us with FAITH. Over time, when you go to God again and again, seeing how his love for you is strong, feeling the grace that comes from knowing his son Jesus, your faith becomes firm and strong. It is easier to go through life...the good times and bad...standing on that firm foundation of faith...trusting in God. When you don't trust God...when you don't know him well, don't realize the gift of grace through Jesus, you don't have that strength that God gives the people who trust him...his people. He still loves you and WANTS to give freely to you, but he will only give what you are willing to receive. When this is the case, it is much easier to get bogged down in the loose sand of life...every situation binds up your tires and makes it impossible to move forward....many times you can't even go backward...you are just STUCK in your own misery.
Fortunately, it's not hard to move to the firmer sand...pray and ask God to draw you closer to him. Ask him to help you build your faith in him. When you reach out to God, he WILL reach back and bless you with his strength and peace!
Don't get bogged down in the loose sand of life! Move your buggy to firmer ground and enjoy the ride!
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
"Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emmissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government." 1 Peter 2:13-17 The Message Translation
So yesterday I talked about being a "salt shaker," sprinkling "God flavor" on everyone I meet and every where I go. This doesn't always happen...there are times that I let circumstances change my mood and my personality so much it "clogs up" my salt shaker. I am so upset, worried, bitter or unhappy that I can't seem to add much "God flavor" to anything around me. God is still inside of me, I believe that, and I hold on to my beliefs and the hope of heaven. BUT, whatever happened to make me so unhappy blocks my ability to share God's love with others. My salt shaker is useless.
My grandmother used to put a few grains of dried rice in her salt shakers. I had forgotten about that until this morning. She said she did that to keep moisture from clogging up the holes of the salt shaker. The rice would absorb more moisture than the salt, keeping the salt drier and making it easier to get out of the shaker. She also said that if the salt did start to clump up in the shaker, the hard grains of rice would knock the lumps together and break them up so they could come out of the holes better.
Perhaps some of us Christians need something to "break up the lumps" in our salt and absorb the unhappiness and hate that tends to build in us toward people who don't fit into our idea of the perfect Christians. It's much easier to sprinkle salt on people we like, isn't it? People who think or act differently tend to clog up our salt shakers quickly. People of a different political party, people of different religions, people of different sexual orientations, people with tattoos or piercings, people who like to drink beer, people who...the list could go on and on. If they are different, we fear them and what they can do to "our way of life." That fear leads to hate in many cases. Do you doubt me that Christians can be hateful? Just look at some of your Facebook postings from Christians blasting the government or gays or Muslims. Not very "salty!"
If we want people to see and taste the flavor of God, we have to be where they are...we have to respect them and their beliefs, even if we don't agree with them. We have to live as Jesus did and love EVERYONE! Read the Gospels and study how Jesus lived...let his actions be the rice in your salt! If we are to "make disciples of all nations," how are we to do that when we only associate with people who are just like us and already believe? We think they are ignorant of God's ways and will, and while that is true, it is us who are ignorant of the loving, forgiving and accepting ways of Jesus that began the Christian revolution. I was once an outcast who wasn't living a righteous life...where would I have been if there weren't loving Christians who met me where I was and lovingly accepted me?
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
"I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live." -- Psalm 116:1-2
I love when I learn something new...even if it is just a little factoid or tidbit of knowledge. For example, I heard some teenagers talking on tv and one of them said something like "You must have felt pretty saltywhen she dumped you! I didn't know what he meant by that because my definition of salty didn't fit with what he said. So, I did some investigating. Apparently, the term "salty" has become a slang term for feeling stupid or getting "played." I had no idea! Being "salty" to me meant that something had a lot of salt on it. I also knew the term "salty dog" which is a mixed drink I believe, and there is a cafe in Hilton Head by that name.
Words can be so powerful...that's why I love them so much! One word can mean so many things, depending on the way you use it! So, I began thinking about the word "salty" and I also thought of how Jesus told us we are to be the "salt" of the earth.
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be the "salt-seasoning" that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage." -- Matthew 5:13 The Message Translation
When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ and have had the experience of that relationship lifting you up and saving you from your dispair, you KNOW where you are going and you have the responsibility not to keep it to yourself, but to tell people your story and share God's amazing love with others. Jesus explains that you are to be "salty" so people can see the "flavorful" life they too can have!
What does it mean to be "salty?" I picture myself as a salt shaker...everywhere I go, I like to shake a little salt. Everywhere I go, everything I do should have a little God in it...showing love to others in everything I do...even the hard stuff. By looking at me and seeing how I treat others and how I live every day of my life, people should see me living what I believe...practicing what I preach, so to speak. I don't have to go around preaching to people or quoting Bible verses all the time. I just have to live the life that Jesus leads to me to live. No, I won't get it right all the time, and I will make mistakes...But forgiving myself and forgiving others each and every day will go a long way in showing God's love to the world. Maybe those around me will get tired of their bland and tasteless life and want some salt of their own.
I know God hears my voice and hears my cries for help. I know God hears my songs of joy. I WILL call on him as long as I live. AND...I will share that fact with whoever wants to listen...shaking God's love all over the place! I pray that today I will be a "salty dog" and be full of the flavor of God's love! May you be "salty" today too!
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests
of others." Philippians 2:3-4
I have been wrapped up in my own issues lately, trying to solve problems, dealing with feelings I am not familiar with. But, honestly...it has been about me, me me. Oh, I know others around me may not think I am selfish, and most would not see how distressed I was. But trust me...ME was about all I could think about. And, perhaps that is why nothing ever seemed to get better...I was so wrapped up in my own misery and trying to figure it out that I have been missing the blessings that come from helping others. Getting out of your own world and stepping into someone else's is not always easy and most of the time uncomfortable...but when you reach out to a friend, or help a complete stranger...many times it ends up blessing YOU more than you can imagine!
I am reading a book about being missional in your every day life called Right Here, Right Now. Something I read today inspired me to step out of my own issues and open my eyes to the people around me. I read today of a set of practices that would "provoke one another to love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24) They use the acrostic BELLS to explain it:
Bless Seek to do 3 acts of blessing a day for people around you, both of your faith and outside it. The acts can be as simple as an encouraging note or email or even a nice gift for someone who needs a smile. (I know someone I work with who loves to give annoymous gifts for people "just because" ;-)
Eat Share at least 3 meal a week with others outside your immediate family. The idea being that around the table people open up and "gospel" things happen.
Listen Commit to at least one hour a week being quiet and LISTENING for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When you clear your mind of the every day busyness and just listen to your surroundings, it is amazing what God can speak in to your heart. No, it probably won't be an audible voice, but God can speak through your conscience, a thought, or even a bird singing in the tree outside your window. When you open your mind to that possibility, you will find that the idea doesn't sound so hoaky!
Learn Commit to reading from the Bible each week, specifically from the 4 Gospels of Jesus. If you want to learn more about Jesus and how to live more like him, you have to know what he taught and study how he lived. reading other books of the Bible help too. Reading other books, both fiction and nonfiction are good too as it expands your mind and your perspective.
Sent Stay mindful of opportunites to serve others in your everyday life, and then journal about those opportunites. Journal about missed opportunities as well. This journal will be a reminder that God sent us to be his light in this world.
The BELLS practice sounds like a good way to get my mind out of my SELF and open my heart to the people around me. I don't think it's wrong to be concerned about your own problems and issues, but when those problems and issues become all you can think about, you run the risk of shutting the needs of others out and you will miss out on the blessings that come with serving and loving others. Those blessings may be JUST what you need to help solve your problems in the first place! What a good message for me this morning!
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
"For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
I truly believe the spirit of God lives in me. How can I make such a claim? Because I know the thoughts that are in my head, and how messed up I COULD be. In spite of myself, I am able to love, forgive, reach out, be kind, look for kindness...That has to be God living in me!
What could be ugly is beautiful. People ask me how I am able to stay up and happy most of the time. Well...lately that has been harder than normal, but it has been possible because of my relationship with my heavenly Father. When I just want to curl up in my chair and stay in my safe environment, hiding away from the day's problems and troubles, God gives me a message that reminds me he is there and is giving me the power to love myself enough to get up and deal with the day. He gives me the power to discipline myself and do what I have to do, even if I don't want to. He gives me the power to love others around me and love myself as well.
I am thankful for God's power that lives inside of me. It got me up today and now I am ready to got on with my busy day. I hope you realize that the spirit of God can live in you too...just ask Him for it. He will bless you with his power that will enable you do do what you have to do today too!
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrafice, holy and pleasing to God - this is true and proper worship." -- Romans 12:1
As many of you know, I have a had a life-long battle with my weight. I have been "plus-sized" my whole life, and it has been a constant source of frustration to me. I can't wear the clothes I want to, I feel self-conscience all the time, I don't have the self-confidence I desire, I am always worried that someone is looking at me and judging me because I am fat. I have had moments of losing some pounds and feeling good about myself, but I always slip into old habits and either gain it back, or stop losing, so I never get to my "ideal" weight. I have still accomplished many great things and have a wonderful life full of friends, family and many, many blessings, but the weight issue is always there.
Lately, I have been having feelings of not being "good-enough"...my mind plays this track in my head...I'm not "good enough" at everything I try to really reach my goals. Not a "good enough" singer, not a "good enough" mother, not a "good enough" writer, not a "good enough" wife... No one has said this to me or made me believe this about myself, it's all in my head...it's not rational. I know what a strong, talented and loving woman I have become with God's help, and I know that the track in my head is all lies. And, because I know this...I am praying that I can put those feelings behind me and finally, after 44 years, love me for who I am...ALL of me...the way that God loves me. I try to look at others through the eyes of Jesus...can I learn to look at myself through his eyes as well?
I believe that I CAN do that with God's help. So, I want to offer my body and all its flaws as a living sacrafice. God's not finished with me yet...He has big plas for me, and I AM "good enough" for him! Offering myself to God means that I give up my selfish desires for my life and surrender to God's will. Figuring out what God's will is for my life is the challenge, but I pray I open my mind and my heart and listen for God's urging and guiding. I pray that the negative track playing in my mind is replaced with encouragement that allows me to praise God instead of tearing down his beautiful creation that is within me.
I know that I am not the only one in the world with "not good enough" thoughts playing in my head. If you struggle with this everyday too, reach out to God. He will reach back and give you an encouraging message to let you know he's there and loves you for who you are. You might hear a song on the radio, or get a call from a friend, or read a line in a book, or get a compliment from a sstranger....who knows what form God will choose to speak to you, but he will and this will give you a reason to praise Him for being a God who cares and you will start BELIEVING that you are good enough for God!
Friday, August 3, 2012
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." -- John 10:10
Some Bibles have published the words of Jesus written in red. This is so we can pay more attention to those words...make them stand out. Why? We should pay attention to the words of Jesus, because he wasn't just a prophet, or a good and kind teacher...he was and IS God. And we aren't just to pay attention to those words, we are to LIVE them.
The words in the verse above are written in red words. Jesus said them...he said he came so that they (we) may have life and have it to the full. Yes, he is talking about eternity. In the verses following, Jesus talks about how he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He did lay down his life for us. If we believe that, then we will have a full life in heaven WITH him forever.
But I think it goes farther than that. We can have have life to the fullest during our time on earth as well. How? We have to LIVE those words in red!
I am reading a book, Right Here, Right Now by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford. It is about being missionaries. Not necessarily by going to some far away country and helping those in need, but by being missionaries RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE. That doesn't mean preaching all the time and trying to convert everyone you see. It means LIVING THE WORDS IN RED.
Many people read the Bible, know it, can quote it word for word, verse by verse, but they don't LIVE it! I just saw a posting on Facebook this week that said something like going to church doesn't make you a Christian. That is so true. Even when we THINK we are Christians, that doesn't mean we ACT the way Christ wanted us to act and live the way Christ wants us to live.
We need to pay attention to the words of Jesus and LIVE them, not just recite them! Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies. Sell your things and give the money to the poor. Forgive seventy times seven times. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
These are not just words, they are ACTION STATEMENTS. We, as followers of Jesus, are to do these things, not just for the people who are LIKE us, believe like us, pray like us, look like us...but for EVERYONE.
That means when someone hurts you, makes you mad, does something you don't believe in, or makes a wrong decision, we are not to judge them...we are to LOVE them. God does, should we?
I think if every one of us that claim to be followers of Jesus actually lived Jesus words, we would find ourselves in a more peaceful world...we would "live life to the full." It's something to think about today...are you living out the red words or just quoting them?