For your weekend…

“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen:  Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”   — Edward Teller  

The theme for this week turned out to be trust–you just can’t function well in this world without it.  God can be trusted–He loves you immensely and intensely!  I pray that this weekend will be a time of realizing that your trust is well-founded and that you have opportunities for expanding your horizons of faith.  Take time for some personal joy and remember to share it with those around you!

*photos taken by Mike or Becky Childs

 
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Keeping it real

Back when I was still thinking about starting this blog, I talked with several friends to get their advice.  One of the first things I was told was to “keep it real because the people I identify with the most aren’t the perfect ones.  I need to hear from people who talk about the times they didn’t get it right as well as the ones they did.”  It’s pretty good advice.  (Thanks, Betty.)

As I look back over some of the things that I’ve written in the last couple of months–some of which I published here, but not all–I have to wonder if some of the writings aren’t a little too real.  I’ve made no secret that this sharing of myself is often difficult for me.  So when I look back and see some of the things that have escaped onto my computer screen…well, let’s just say I’m a bit surprised.  I’m used to thinking these things and writing some of these things, but much less accustomed to letting others know about them.  This is definitely been a “growth opportunity”–and sometimes I’ve been reminded that with those kinds of opportunities come some personal discomfort.

You already know by now that I collect quotes.  This  post and my thought process for it reminds me of a favorite passage from Margery Williams, in The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real:

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Maybe that’s part of the reason for this blog…it’s an opportunity to be real in a broader arena…even if it sounds and feels a little too real to me sometimes.  Thanks for all the love and understanding–not to mention the kind comments.  Here’s to always being Real.

wanderings (and wonderings)

It is WAY too early in the morning and here I am…reading and typing and learning more about who I am in Christ.  I started to leave off those last two words, but I find I can’t really separate who I am from Him.  It isn’t pious.  It is passionate.  Passionate faith can be difficult…

Sometimes I can’t sleep.  Questions run through my mind over and over and it’s not worry so much as it is that I hate waiting on the answers and wondering why I’m supposed to be doing “this.”  No matter what the answer is…I just want to know now.  I can be impatient.  (Sound familiar?)  Part of my reading brings me back to Oswald Chambers and his writing for September 12th (PLEASE make sure you join me there sometime today–in print, if you already have it or check it out online at  http://utmost.org/ …) where I come to the very last two sentences which say, “Stand off in faith believing that what Jesus said is true, though in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing.  He has bigger issues at stake than the particular thing you ask.”  Well, yeah, of course He does!…and ouch!

There’s nothing unknown there for me, but it hits me all brand new in these early morning hours and gives me a spiritual wake-up call.  Once again, it isn’t all about me.  Regardless of His decision about even the most unimportant details of my life, they are His to make.  It isn’t a cop-out and it isn’t always easy, but there it is:  if I really want to belong to Him, to be in relationship with Him and say that He is Lord, then shouldn’t my job be more focused on following His instructions and less on the reasoning why and the trying to figure out all the solutions that I want and how to get them?

Please don’t take that last sentence as a call to check your brain at the door and follow blindly.  God created us with the ability to think, to reason, and I fully believe that He intends for us to do so…we’re just not going to always immediately come to the same conclusions that He does because while there are days that we’re marching behind the elephants, He’s always seeing the whole parade.

While in the elephant’s shadow, I’ve come to the stunning (note the sarcasm) conclusion that I don’t always share well.  Oh, I don’t have trouble sharing things.  I have more trouble sharing me…which makes me wonder why God wanted me to start a blog…where sharing is the largest part of things.  I’ve always been a private person.  I’ve been known to sit and just listen for hours and take little part in the conversation while another person poured out their soul.  I wasn’t always like that.  (At this point there are actually people who are laughing out loud at that last sentence…just so you know.)  I used to freely share any and all opinions with the world at large…and then I figured out that I didn’t really know enough to do that.  It was humbling.  It was needed.  I learned to shut up and listen.  To learn and be quiet.  To search out and share HIS opinions and not just my own.  In fact, to learn that my opinions should actually be His and not  just my own.  And then, just when I thought I was getting a pretty good handle on that “being quiet” thing, God said to start a blog.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but there it is.

Sharing your opinions–even with people you know–isn’t baring your soul.  You can do that and still remain extremely private.  This sharing of life–of self–is way more difficult…way more personal.  I know that God wants to use this and I’m still trying to figure out exactly how He will when maybe I should just go with it.  I also know that since this got started that it seems I’ve had a lot more ‘opposition’ in life.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  Maybe it’s part of the plan.  Either way, I’m right back where I started.  Being obedient doesn’t mean I’ll always understand the “why”—it just means I have to try.  Pray for me? Better yet–pray with me.

Trust issues

Playful, entertaining, care-free, and funny, with a friendly reputation and a sleek wardrobe that never goes out of style and blends in with all the neighbors.  Who wouldn’t want to be these things?  I wonder if that’s what a dolphin thinks as he flies gracefully through the water and into the air and back again as he chases the joy of the day.  Do you think he ever questions if the water will hold him up or refuse to welcome him back after he’s been in the air for that incredible jump that so impresses us?  Do you think he questions why he has to live in water or just enjoys the fact that he’s alive?  I’m being silly, of course, but it is with a purpose.

Do you ever wonder if God will hold you up?  If He will catch you when you fall back to earth after a glorious experience in Him or face a battle in your personal life?  Do you wonder if He will really provide for you or question why you must be in this place at all?  Once you surrender to the freedom (yes, freedom!) of God throughout your life, it should get easier, right?  Oh, but that’s where our humanity comes in!  We tend to think in terms of rules and regulations…not freedoms.  We keep forgetting that this life is all about the process of becoming more like Him–and we won’t get there overnight.  We also keep forgetting that we’re not even supposed to be in control and when we forget that, we go right back to questioning of God’s goodness and trying to test out the limits of His faithfulness:  will He be there for me if I do…?  What if I go …?  You forget—He is inside you!  His faithfulness has no limitations!  You don’t HAVE to do  life on your own!  In fact, once you belong to Him, you’ll never be totally alone again!  No matter what you face, He’ll always be there to guide you.

Yes, there will be times when He may appear to be silent—sometimes just so YOU can see that you really want Him to be in charge–but He left us His Word so we can always know what He thinks and how much He loves us.  Yes, there will be times when you wonder what to do and question whether or not you’re doing it right.  The main question isn’t whether you’re “doing it right”, but whether or not your heart is right with Him.  What is the deepest desire of your heart?  To please Him or yourself?  To serve Him or your own personal goals?  To do it your way or to follow His Way.  These are the questions you must answer first.  The answers to these questions are the only really important ones, you know.  When you’ve gotten the answers right in these areas, the rest of life can begin to flow naturally from your decisions.  Keep focusing on these answers and their applications until they are second nature to you.  Too often we answer them and then think we can move on to other issues.  It just isn’t so! I used to have an anonymous quote on my desk that said, “What you do when you have a choice will determine who you will be when you no longer have a choice.” I don’t know who said it, but they were right.  Make the choice to be totally His:  to trust Him, to love Him, to LIVE for Him!

Will this mean that you have an absolutely clear cut path laid before you in every decision?  Absolutely not!  But it does mean that, as a believer in Christ, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you have a crisis of faith or decision to make.

He will sustain you.  Trust Him.

He will love you. He can’t do otherwise.

He will forgive you.  That’s why He gave His life on the cross.

He will guide you.  That’s why the Holy Spirit lives inside you.

He will delight in you.  That’s why He’s blessed you with life on this earth.

He will welcome you home.  That’s why He made heaven.

 

As for the permanently stylish wardrobe thing…well, really, who wants to blend in with the neighbors all the time?

As HE was saying…

We had quite a discussion yesterday in our Sunday School class about why people don’t always trust God.  One of the reasons we talked about was found early in Genesis chapter 3, where Eve and the serpent were talking and she added to what God had actually instructed.  In other words, she put her own little spin on it.  It’s something we all do from time to time and whether we intend to or not, we change the original meaning into something different. We don’t mean to do harm, but that isn’t always the end result.

 Don’t you just hate it when you’re misquoted?  I used to know someone whose signature words were, “As you were saying…” It is actually a very good communication strategy designed to increase the empathy level of the conversation—to show you were really listening to the person and not just goofing off as they spoke to you from the depths of their heart.  The problem that I noticed was that MOST of the time this person (who actually loved me very much) used this phrase as it related to me…well, the return message was RARELY what I intended to communicate—and may even been in direct opposition to what I had actually said.  If their initial understanding of what I said was communicated to someone else without oftentimes radical revision, I’d have been portrayed as having views that were completely different from what I actually thought. 

 Before you get to thinking that I’m a bit puffed up or paranoid about this, know that I’d actually gotten phone calls from people asking me, “Did you really say that?!”  This was annoying, at the very least—and had a great deal of potential danger regarding relationships with the other humans in my world.  BUT, I often wondered, if those who were listening to the reported version actually knew me, shouldn’t they have given me the benefit of the doubt before reacting to one of those “As she was saying …” statements?  Shouldn’t they have known my character, my heart–me!–better than that? 

 If I can be upset and frustrated—even compromised in my relationships with others by someone else’s inability to correctly divine the intent of my heart or mind—isn’t it  possible that God has the right to a similar opinion…on a much grander scale?

 I wonder if He keeps records about how often we misquote him or ‘spin’ His words to match our own desires.  Does He say anything in Scripture to give us an idea about how He feels about this subject?  Actually, He does.  He’s pretty plain in Proverbs 30:5-6, Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32…not to mention the dire warnings about this in Revelation 22:18 and 19, just to mention a few.  If we belong to God shouldn’t we be concerned about how we portray Him at least as much as we are concerned about how we are portrayed? 

 My point for today is this:  Let’s make sure we’re accurately handling the word of God in our conversations and in the way we live our lives. Someone else’s ability to trust in God and get to know the real Him may depend on it.

For your weekend…

“Whence comes this idea that if what we are doing is fun, it can’t be God’s will? The God who made giraffes, a baby’s fingernails, a puppy’s tail, a crooknecked squash, the bobwhite’s call, and a young girl’s giggle, has a sense of humor. Make no mistake about that.”   –-Catherine MarshallMake sure you schedule some downtime for yourself this weekend…take time to relax and laugh and enjoy those around you…who knows, maybe they need to be reminded to laugh, too, and oh, how God can be pleased with the sharing of His joy!

A very relaxed cat named Jack

*all photos taken by Mike or Becky Childs 

Savoring life

I have a plan.  Actually, I’m reinstating an old plan.  As part of our efforts to deliberately add some more fun to our days, we’re going back to pulling a weekly challenge from an old pitcher that sits on our kitchen cabinet.  The pitcher has a collection of suggested options printed out on bright red paper.  (Red is a celebration color for me.)  The Suggestions/Challenges cover a broad range of possibilities and include activites that can be done with a partner or own your own.  Some of ours include the following:

  • Memory Lane!  Pick out an “old favorite” CD and listen to it all the way through at least once this week!
  • Bless your heart…and someone else!  Pick someone and do something nice for them—anonymously.
  • Take a mini-stay-cation!  Grab your camera gear and go see what beautiful thing you can capture on film!  You must not leave the yard or take longer than 30 minutes on this one!
  • Enrich your mind!  You must spend at least 20 minutes reading a book each day this week!
  • Remember the joys of childhood!  Collect spare change and go for an ice cream cone!
  • Build relationships!  Invite someone over for a meal this week!
  • Bring Nature indoors!  Pick something pretty for the mantle or counter or your desk at work!

Want to join us in the challenge of adding a bit more fun to your week?  Create your own list of local, low-cost adventures to help you take some time and raise your fun quotient!  Make it a list of things you’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t quite made the time for and print them on brightly colored paper.  Find a container you like (even an old Mason jar looks festive with lots of little folded  or colored notes inside!) and choose a spot where you can see it on a regular basis.  Visual appeal makes this even more fun, so choose a color that you love, use a creative font–ANYTHING that will help draw your attention to this project.  The whole idea is to have this visible multiple times a day so you can enjoy the anticipation of your fun, as well as the actual fun challenge.  Get a friend, a spouse or your kids involved–or just do this as “pamper project” just for yourself!

If you feel so inclined, I’d love to hear about some of your “fun challenges” and how you incorporated this into your life!  Mother Teresa once said, “One filled with joy preaches without preaching.”  So…if a happy heart will draw others to the throne of God, what are we waiting for?  Here’s to adding lots of laughter and joy to our schedules.  Let’s savor our days and have some fun!