It’s all in the doing…

I’m not sure if this is actually a blog post or a personal memo. Either way, I can’t get it off my brain, so here it goes.

My pastor preached on forgiveness this past Sunday. He used Matthew 5:21-26 as his primary text and did his usual phenomenal job of teaching us how to appreciate the way the words were deliberately chosen, as well as bringing the Word to life and making them practical. I can appreciate all of that. I love the way words are crafted, too…and I thought he brought out some really great points.

He talked to us about Romans 12:12 tells us to “be transformed” and then began the process of showing us how the rest of the Word makes that both possible and practical. Pastor Chris reminded us that we’re not to stop at the standards set by the world, or even by those set by historical religious teachers…we’re supposed to meet God’s standard.

In case you don’t remember just off the top of your head or haven’t reached for your Bible yet, Matthew 5:21-26 deals with anger…and forgiveness.

I thought Pastor Chris did a great job. I loved the sermon…and then…

I had to apply it this week.

Don’t ever think that God doesn’t have a sense of humor…or timing…cropped-heart

Now, it’s up to me to get busy with the doing.

“Forgiven people forgive.” That’s what we were taught on Sunday. That’s where I’m walking this week.

How are YOU doing the Word this week?

Grace & Peace!

Light afflictions?

Light afflictions…

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”   2 Corinthians 4:17

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven these past couple of weeks. I’d love to say that’s because I’m so lofty-minded, but the real reason is because I keep getting news about people I know who have just recently gone there.

That’s right. This is about that…and a few other things. I’m fine. We’re well and hoping to continue that way, but a lot of people I love are really hurting right now. Within the past two weeks I’ve learned that a friend lost her husband, one lost her mother, another lost her father, one lost a son and, just this past Sunday, a family member lost a son…all that in addition to the realization that I may have actually lost count of the recent surgeries and the difficult diagnoses that are out there, too.

It would be easy to hear all this hard news and become discouraged and angry and bitter, but it wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, it would just slow down the process of learning what God has to say about all these recent challenges. I lay in bed the other night just thinking, “Heaven must be incredible! These things are hard, God, and if these are some of the “light afflictions” and the joy really is that great… no wonder John didn’t have the vocabulary to tell us all about heaven in words that we could all easily understand at will. Dear God, help us focus on THAT.”

I mean, think about it! The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus went through all of that agony, took on all the sins of the world, endured the turning away of His Father (!), was despised and rejected by men (then AND now!)—all of that!– “for the joy that was set before Him.” He did all of that just to make sure He could take us with Him and keep us with Him forever because the joy that is coming is SO MUCH BIGGER than our deepest pain in this world. Wow.

And yet we waffle in our belief. We lose sight of the goal and choose to be less some days. We forget that our inconsistencies can keep others from seeing His light…and in doing so, we make it easier for the world to deny Him even now.

One thing is certain in this life. Hard things will happen, but wait! There’s something else that is just as certain:  God will be there with us in the midst of it…and He wants, more than anything, to have us all with Him forever. There is promise in that. There is hope in that. There is healing in that. I need all of that and so do you!

So here’s the next step today:  we get to choose. We get to choose what and WHO we believe, and we get to choose how we’ll live, and we get to choose how we’ll share HIM—how we’ll LIVE HIM—before the world who is ALSO dealing with these hard things…without Him.

Here’s what I know: I can’t fix the hurts here or wave away the hard news.  What I can tell you is my deliberately chosen response to these things:

  1. Heaven is gathering a new fascination for me simply because my Jesus is there and He’s got a great and growing collection of people I love who have already found themselves there, too.
  2. I’ve got a life to live here that makes other people want to go along with me as I travel there.
  3. Until that happens, I’ll be…

 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Want to go with me?

Grace & Peace!

cropped-heart

Identity Secure?

I found out this week that someone was trying to use my name…and that they were also trying to use my debit card number…and it wasn’t me. I wasn’t alarmed when my card was declined while trying to buy fruit at the Kroger store, but I did follow up on the matter and I’m really glad I did.

My first call was to my banker, who heard my voice and called me by my first name. It was exactly what I expected of her because we’ve known one another for years. We’ve talked many times–in and out of her office. We’ve worshiped together, exchanged stories about God’s goodness, and prayed together about matters of concern to each of us. She knows me by more than just my name or the string of numbers which represent me on her computer screen. She immediately took safety precautions and started the necessary procedures to take care of the matter for me. Her response reminded me of why I chose to do business there in the first place and reinforced that decision in a major way.

“Annoyed” doesn’t even begin to touch how I feel about some nefarious person trying to steal from me and others using my card number, but the fact is that sometimes that kind of thing happens in our electronic society where we’re known by numbers instead of by face. It means we must be on our guard–and it makes a strong argument for using cash!

As I monitored my accounts in the early morning hours, the following thought occurred to me:  I’m so glad that can’t happen in Christ!

My true identity is not one marked by a specific sequence of numbers and it can never be stolen…electronically or otherwise. My true identity as a child of God is safe because I am HIS! I am safe and secure in Him. I am loved by Him. He knows my voice and, even better, He knows my heart. I am deeply and personally known by Him and He is always watching over me.

I am comforted by that. You can be, too. Do you have that kind of security?

“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:16 

“But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” I Corinthians 8:3 

cropped-heart“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.”   Psalm 139: 1-5

Grace & Peace!

Listening

Sometimes I want to sit in front of this computer and write long, amazing posts full of all the things God keeps showing me. I mean, I REALLY want to do that like you just wouldn’t believe…and He just won’t let me. I’m going through something like that right now and thought I’d let you know why it’s been a bit quiet here lately.

  • God’s been saying plenty. Trust me on this. Apparently, however, now is not the time to share those things.
  • Maybe it’s because you’ve got to really “GET” the lesson and have it worked down into your life before you’re really able to share or teach it properly. And He’s giving me a lot to take in right now.
  • Maybe it’s because He’s apparently got a lot to say through the people around me and doesn’t need my voice to get in the way of theirs.
  • Maybe He’s just teaching me how to listen when He says, “No.” to something that I want/crave/view as “mine”…and learn to respond to the “No.” in ways that still honor Him.
  • Maybe…who knows?

Whatever the reason for the time-out, know this: God is good. Amazingly good. He is loving and caring and personal and He sees you right where you are and He knows what you NEED even when it isn’t what you want and He still has a plan that is for your good.

Are you listening? Even if He says “No.” to you, too?

Autumn Lavender Bloom

My Real Life God

I looked through one of those magazines today. You know the ones that are so full of pretty pictures and creative options that it makes you feel like a bit of a slug for not coming up with something like that…or that…or…well, anything that could just add to the pretty of the world and inspire someone to go out and paint a picture or write prose with deep thoughts that will change the world.

It was full of quotes from people who, apparently, live lives full of poetry and have plenty of time to cut little tiny bits of paper and reassemble them into works of art and it had lots of pictures of things like feathers in vintage vases and lace used in unexpected ways to create backdrops for family photo collages. The photos looked, well, the words “whispery” and “ethereal” kept running through my mind…along with very mundane thoughts like, “Mercy, that’s pretty, but even if I could do that, it wouldn’t last long at my house…the cats would kill that mood in a heartbeat. It looks great, but it’s just not an option in my real life.”

I walked out of the store without the magazine, but I carried the pictures in my head along with the desire to write things that were Jane Austin-y or William Wordsworth-y. The truth is that I know most of the same words they knew (or at least a good number of them, anyway!), but somehow mine come out without the flights of fancy most of the time.

I thought about how different we all are and what a good thing that is and that started me thinking about God. I know from Scripture that God is a Spirit and, because of that, a lot of people associate Him with things that are secret and wispy and whispery and gossamer and hushed reverential tones…kind of like some of those magazine pictures I saw today: perfectly staged and too pretty to touch with real life on your hands. I guess I just see Him a little differently.

I see God in the great big things like sunsets and even in the chaos on the evening news. I see Him in the practicality of finding a new use for an old thing that got sold at a yard sale and I see Him in the delicacy of the tiny purple muscari blooms that are scattered around our yard near the hot tub. (Yes, we are the Clampetts and we have a big old hot tub out in the yard–grin—and yes, I even see God in the humor of having that big old hot tub in the yard.)

I see God in delicate things like the moss at the base of the oak trees out back and in the silent flight of the owl that lives up in the top of those same trees. I hear Him in the wind that sweepsSONY DSC
through the Georgia pines out front and in the sweet scent of those same trees as I head to get my mail…it stops me in my tracks every single day. I hear Him in my nephews’ laughter and feel Him in my husband’s hugs. I see Him written out on the delicate pages of my Bible and also in the tough-as-nails, precious people I love who live with daily pain or those who are fighting cancer…still…or even, again. I saw Him today in the face of the perky little lady who came and sat by me at the deli counter and the way she reminded me of a loved one who now lives with God full time.

All of that makes me think that my words might be more whispery when I talk about God if He just wasn’t so loud to me every day. God is available for more than just those reverential, high-church holiday times like Christmas and Easter! He’s a REAL LIFE God for every single second of your life! I hope you hear Him, too—and it doesn’t matter to me if He whispers to you or shouts out loud with joy like He seems to with me most days! Just so you hear Him and know that He’s not too delicate to touch with real life on your hands…no matter what that real life looks like today.

“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Grace & Peace!

cropped-heart

Learning to be like Smokey

My friend Audrey (hey, #9!) once jokingly told me that if there was actually such a thing as reincarnation, she’d like to return…as one of my cats. Yes, she did. I laughed because I knew exactly what she was talking about.SONY DSC

My cats are big boys. They are loved and they know it. They are healthy and well-fed and we have conversations all day long every single day. They are totally relaxed here at home and love nothing in this world better than for me to have a seat so they can jump up and get comfortable while getting a kitty massage. Incidentally, they also follow directions pretty well, but I don’t think that’s the part Audrey was talking about…at all. (ha!)

My cats also seem to take turns following me around. Today is, apparently, Smokey’s turn to be the shadow cat. Shadow cat duties include following as closely at my feet as possible without tripping me up, making sure to be noticed at every turn and generally reminding me that I am loved in return for all the good providing I do for them. You may have noticed that these aren’t the behaviors of a cat that could be described as “aloof.” There’s a really good reason for that. I’ve never had one of those cats. Ever. And I love that…most of the time.

This morning, however, I was sitting in my grandmother’s chair in the living room listening to the start of a sermon on revival when I felt like I needed to cut it off and go get in the Word for myself.  You know, for some personal revival. (Imagine that?! God being personal!) Anyway! I turned it off and reached for my Bible, opened it up and began to pray for God to speak. And then Smokey jumped up on the arm of my chair. I rebuffed his efforts to crawl into the open pages and returned to the Word asking God to reveal something to me. I asked him to show me how I needed to respond to whatever He chose to show me—even if it was scary or something I didn’t really want to hear. There are things I need to know and answers I’d like to have. And Smokey settled down on the arm of the chair and just leaned into me…hard…before trying to become one with my lap again. It was annoying.

I got up and moved myself to my chair in the keeping room, got settled, opened the Bible to the chapter I’d been SONY DSCreading (2 Corinthians 13) and became fascinated with 2 words in Paul’s verse 11: “…Become complete.” Be complete? Be complete. Wha…and then Smokey arrived in full force to attach himself to the arm of this chair, too…and lean in hard…again. Deeeep sigh. Small prayer for focus. Return to the Word. Head butt. Be complete. Head butt. Be complete…

And suddenly I got it. I read that verse one more time, closed my Bible, and put it on the table…whereupon Smokey and all of his 17.6-pound-gained-weight-on-diet-food self totally took over the now vacant lap and purred like nobody’s business the moment I laid my hand on the side of his trusting little face…as he leaned into my hand with everything in him.

God and his funny, funny sense of humor. How like Him to answer my prayer with an illustration to boot! Although I am not yet completely like God, I need be more like Smokey. I needed to be reminded that He is in charge of meeting my daily needs and providing for my welfare. I need to follow closely after God every day and not get in His way. I need to be just that determined to crawl up in His lap and get some one-on-one personal revival. I need to lean into Him and be completely satisfied with Him as He works in me so I can become complete IN Him. (And I’m really, really happy that He won’t get the least bit annoyed when I am determined to be with Him so completely!) I’ll have you know that there was definitely some personal revival in my heart today!

Reincarnation isn’t an option, but object lessons are always appreciated because sometimes I can totally miss what’s going on right in front of me. Here’s hoping we’ll all become a little more like Smokey in this life, so that in the days ahead, we become more like our great and wonderful God!

“Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV)

Isn’t that great?! Choose to do these things and the God of peace will be with us!! Now, that’s what I’d call a really personal revival.

Joy in the corner

There’s a very small corner in my dining room. It’s where the opening to the kitchen, the dining room and the living room converge. It’s tiny and, although the three rooms are generally bathed in a gorgeous natural light, this little space is usually much darker. It’s where I put my coat rack and a small table for the usual things that need to be dropped as you come home and start to unwind…the place where you unload all those necessary things from the day that cover you up and weigh you down no matter what season it might be.

I see this corner throughout the day as I go about my housekeeping and my chair faces that direction when we are in the living room in the evenings. As I said, it is small and a bit dark and…it always makes me smile. Yes, smile. You see, not everything in the corner is dark. There’s a small glimmer of silver hanging there on the wall almost–but not quite!–out of sight from most of the people who pass through those openings and on full display from the comfort of my oh-so-very-vintage chair that used to belong to my maternal grandmother all those years ago. That chair was her unintended throne during the holidays or any time our very large and very loud family gathered together. That chair was where she sat so she could see everyone and we could all get a good view of her while she opened up our tokens of love and held small children in her lap while she listened and smiled at all the melee around her. That chair makes me happy…even though I cover up that raucous brown and gold printed fabric with a beautiful throw of red and green and cream roses. My grandmother would have really liked that throw.

She would also have approved of that small silver gleam from the corner. joy

It’s actually a Christmas ornament from a long-ago ornament swap party, but ever since I laid a very enthusiastic claim to it, it’s hung on the wall somewhere in my house year-round. It isn’t an expensive bauble and it still hangs by the silver ribbon that it came packaged in that night. Just three little letters hanging from a tinselized ribbon (and yes, I did just make up my very own word there…but it fits) and the letters are: J O Y.

When I moved to this new house, it seemed most appropriate to place it in the darkest corner of this house full of light so it could shine all the more. Real joy is like that too, you know. Sometimes it takes a bit of a dark patch to really let you appreciate the next time you experience joy and give it it’s proper due. It’s also good to keep joy in sight and refer back to it as often as you can…otherwise you can become a serious stick-in-the-mud even in places where there’s plenty of light to be had.

I know some of you have been struggling lately. I guess that’s pretty universal, isn’t it? I wish we could gather in my living room where we could pray together and laugh loud and long while we figured everything out…or at least figured out how best to respond to all of the crazy going on in the world, but that’s not possible today, so I’m just sitting here praying for you and wishing you can find your own joy in the corner where you are…and knowing that God in His wisdom knows just what we all need and how we all feel…and it reminds me of this sentiment from the Apostle John all those years ago:

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 1:12

Wishing for the visit, waiting on the answers and choosing to look for the joy…

Grace & Peace!