I used to…

I used to be a lot louder. That was back when I knew more. (grin) I think the quiet started when I began to realize how much I didn’t know. Incidentally, that probably started about the time I began to get serious about having a personal relationship with God. Coincidence? I think not.

Getting to know the One who knows it all, kinda shuts you up sometimes…or, at least, it ought to. “Before,” I just looked like I knew Him. That was pretty easy since I was raised in a home that taught the Scripture to us practically and deliberately from Day 1 of breathing on our own.

It was easy to look like I knew Him because I knew all about Him. (Just ask anyone who played “Bible trivia”  with our family. {BTW–“Bible trivia“?!–Is that even a possible thing?! The phrase kind of makes me cringe a little bit right now.} I made all the right appearances and I did all of the right things in public. My parents were praised for doing it right, but inside, I hadn’t really made a choice for following Jesus so much as a choice to ruffle as few feathers as possible on my way out the door. I had all of the head knowledge and very little of the heart knowledge or life application of all that I “knew.” I had plenty of the rebellion going on inside despite all appearances to the contrary.

I used to be louder. My temper was fierce and while I’m not entirely sure those days are past, but I know there are a whole lot fewer of them and that makes me happier in ways that being louder never could. Louder meant being called on for all the right answers even when my heart wasn’t in it–or NOT called on “so other people can learn for themselves.” Louder meant being perceived as right even when I was wrong. Louder meant being praised for WHAT I knew instead of WHO I knew. Louder meant more to me then than relationships did.

I didn’t know that a quieter spirit meant I would be able to hear God more clearly. I was too busy charting my own path to be very concerned about His plans. The fact that my path looked a little like His to those who weren’t looking too closely made it even harder to figure out that I needed a change.

I didn’t know that a quieter Becky meant time for others to grow and opportunities for me to grow and learn, as well. Turns out, I didn’t know all I should have…or needed to know. I didn’t know that being quieter would grow me up instead of just growing my reputation…and, oddly enough, would make me more concerned about God’s reputation in me than I was about my own.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know…and I wasn’t all that interested in finding that out. I was good. Just ask anyone who knew me! I was good. It was enough. I was enough. Writing that down makes me cringe a bit now, too, but I’m doing it anyway because I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake that I made…when I used to be louder.

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NIV) 

Today, I am reminded that God’s Word is always true…and I am praying for a world that still thinks like I used to when I used to be louder.

Grace and Peace!

 

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In Dependence

Today is the birthday of 3 very important people in my life. It is also, incidentally, my cat’s birthday, as well. (He’s 13 years old today!! I know that makes you happy. LOL) All of that means this is a big day for me. Why ME? Well, because I’m always excited to celebrate the day that God decided to pack so many wonderful blessing into my life!

Speaking of celebrating…have you ever gotten a present that…well…it was hard to celebrate? I mean, you KNEW that person meant well (or at least you HOPED they did!), but you HAD to wonder what they were thinking when they picked that particular gift out for YOU! Maybe it wasn’t the right size or maybe it showed up in your least favorite color or flavor. Perhaps you even considered if it might even be a joke…one you weren’t privy to or didn’t really find funny.

The main thing you have to consider about gifts that come to you like that is who is giving them to you. The individual who brought the present is the main determinate for me when I get something like that. It is the person who chose it–and not the one receiving it (me…or you?)–that helps me decide what emotion my face, my voice, my words, and even my attitude going forward will be.

That’s an especially good thing to consider when the Giver happens to be GOD…and the gift is something WAY less than you’d ever hoped or dreamed about receiving. THAT is when it becomes really critical to know all you can about the Giver.

The Giver. Yep. That’s one of His many names. In fact, 1 Peter 5:10 spells it out even plainer when Peter–the ULTIMATE reactionary when receiving/hearing anything he didn’t like!–tells us this:

And God, the giver of all grace, who has called you to share His eternal glory, through Christ, after you have suffered for a short time, will Himself make you perfect, firm, and strong.

I don’t know about you, but that verse has some pretty stout stuff in it for me right now. It has felt more personal these past few months than it has in quite some time. Why? Because some people I love are having a pretty hard time of things right now and because I love them so dearly, that means my life is affected, as well. Right now I’m tired. I’m tired of waiting for the phone to right with good news. I’m tired of seeing the texts that say my prayers aren’t being answered…yet. I’m sick to death of seeing people I love struggle with hard things like mental illness, physical pain, substance abuse, and not knowing what to do or who can help them or their loved ones. I’m ready to see some solutions, sing some praises, and dance in victory over some of these things!

In his book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan asks the following question:

“…Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?”

Well, phfft! Why did he have to go and make Scripture practical again?! (You know I’m kidding, right?! Scripture is ALWAYS practical. WE–and our interpretations of it!–are the ones who all too often aren’t.)

And yet, long before Frances was ever a thought, Peter drove right up beside all of our hard circumstances and told us that God is the Giver of Grace. Grace means “unmerited favor” and, I’ll be perfectly honest with you and say that some of what is going on in my life NEEDS some Grace, but it doesn’t feel very much like it has arrived just yet. 

img_20190109_151124788Some of us are right smack-dab in the middle of those “suffering” times and it can be mighty difficult to see those times as a gift,  and yet,  (oh, how I love that word!) because we know the Giver, we can also have some hope. Oh, we’re always ready to share in some of that glory and who doesn’t want to be considered “perfect, firm, and strong” in life?!

It’s the getting to it–or, rather, the getting through to it–when the going gets rough and the cheering crowd gets a little thin that we have to gather up all we know about the goodness of our God and keep moving. Hard or not. Cheers or not. No matter what hard thing we are facing right now, we need to remember this, as well:

  • For right now, He is giving us the GIFT of greater dependence on Him. While we long for INDEPENDENCE, He knows it is best for us to be IN Dependence on Him—and who would seek it if we all remained comfortable and able to completely handle quickly and efficiently every circumstance that comes our way?
  • ALSO right now (YES! In the MIDDLE of our hard time!!), He STILL has a plan–and it is for our good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • AND right now, He is right there beside us…in this thing–whatever it is!–with us! (Hebrews 13:5) We are NOT alone!!

Take courage, friends, there IS a way through and His name is Jesus. There IS a Plan, a Planner, and a Giver Who knows exactly what we need even when we fail to recognize it, like it, or appreciate the value of it in the midst of receiving it.

I’m counting on it. Better yet, I’m counting on HIM. I hope you are, too.

So, Happy Birthday to all of my loved ones and Happy IN Dependence Day to us all! While we’re here, we might as well celebrate!

Grace and Peace!

“Making it through” Lent

“He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 (CSB)

My house is being deliberately filled with music this morning. Praise music. I’m listening to songs about the goodness and the greatness of my God. The one that is on currently just had this to say, “I know that I can make it. I know that I can stand. No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your hands!” It is both an encouragement and a reminder for those of us who are right in the middle of a hard thing that we are not alone.

My husband and I are both fine. Some of our loved ones are not. I’ve spent most of the past several days in prayer and waiting. There’s more of that to come. That doesn’t make me spiritual. It makes me part of a family–both physical and spiritual. The wait is not over and the situation isn’t fully resolved. In fact, we’re just beginning to see the tiniest glimmers of hope that might not even register on anyone else’s scale, but  I am choosing to celebrate them just the same. I am taking encouragement from the reminder on Sunday (and from several other sources lately!) that God calls us to do hard things. Well, here we are…right where we’ve been called to be.

I know others in vastly different, and yet similar situations. In fact, several of my closest friends are “right here with me” even though they live far away. Today, we are mourning the loss of life and the destruction of the tornadoes that swept through the South this past weekend, and also celebrating the safety of our friend who was right in the midst of it and remained untouched despite the destruction in her yard and neighborhood. Today, we are missing family far from us by distance and wishing we could be there to help, all the while knowing our skills are insufficient for the tasks they face. Today, we are the guardians of those who once guided us and are now in the middle of trying to make sense of even the smallest things. Today, we are, as my friend Patty wrote the other day, “just trying to survive” and love on those who are closest to us.

I’m still relatively new to the practice of Lent, so my mind doesn’t automatically go in the ways of those who have practiced it their whole lives. I don’t wish to offend anyone, but I began observing Lent for ME as a way to direct my own spiritual focus on worship. My walk with God is truly personal. It’s not a religion, but a relationship. Because observing Lent is voluntary for me, I’ve wondered whether or not I needed to even bother with it this year or simply ignore it in favor of “just surviving.” As of last night, I still hadn’t figured out a way to observe it and as I laid down, I mentally decided that maybe I would just skip it this year, since this isn’t a practice that my spiritual tradition usually observes. As I resigned myself to this decision, a verse floated through my mind about the ways I am to love my God: with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. 

Just thinking those words encouraged me to go ahead and celebrate this Lenten season. In fact, I really want to carefully follow that verse no matter what season it is. Today, however, I find myself in need of deliberately observing it, so I’m going to take it as my verse for Lent. I plan to find a way to do something good for my body, something good for my soul, and something good for my mind each day as I make sure I remain focused on the gift of Jesus the Christ and the sacrifice He made for all of us. I’m looking forward to adding health, encouragement, and knowledge over the next 40 days. 

I don’t have a clue what all of those observances will be or what those days will hold, but I do know this: “I know that I can make it. I know that I can stand. No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your hands!”

Thank you, Jesus. You came for us. The least we can do is live for you. Help us to focus on the gift of You and all You have done for us today and live in ways that worship and bring You praise.

Grace and peace!