Saturday morning

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…'” Jeremiah 6:16a

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Rest for your souls…doesn’t​ that sound lovely? Make room for some soul rest this weekend. There’s room on the porch…

Grace and Peace!

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!

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Mendy’s question

“This is what I am pondering tonight. Can you be so busy obeying that you miss out on a real relationship with God, that would make obeying the rules become more natural?”

I read this post from a sweet friend last night on Facebook and then I went back and read it again…and then again. I love it when people post things that show they’re actually thinking!  Posts that show people are pursuing God and want to be who they were designed to be instead of sharing the latest gossip or what they’re having for supper…well, those are the kinds of posts that keep me on Facebook in spite of the other kind.

Back to the actual question, though.  I loved it because I know the heart behind it and because it cries for something deeper that a quick pat on the head or an off-the-cuff religious answer.  It’s a great question and one that I wanted to take some time thinking about before I just fired off my initial response.

I took another look at it today and found myself agreeing with others who had responded.  They all said, “yes!” and while I believe that they are correct, the writer and the God-lover inside of me won’t allow me to be so minimalistic in my answer.  So, here’s my response:

For me, the answer is a “yes” and I think that’s the basic difference between a religion and a relationship.  When all you have is religion, rules are the order of the day and making sure that you’re following all of those rules leaves precious little time to consider whether or not the rules you’re following actually came from God or if they were the result of man’s attempt to ‘clean up the mess’ around him.

Yes, I know, it is shocking, but that actually happened…and it still does, from time to time.  It’s one of the reasons we have all manner of denominations and such widely varied practices all in the name of being religious.  People with really good intentions (and on occasion, the desire to make people behave more like they want them to!) have created more rules than God Himself and when we haven’t actually read what GOD has to say is most important, it becomes easier to just fall in line and conform to what those around us are doing without asking that all-important WHY question.

And, yes, God does have rules.  That’s a really inconvenient truth for some people who would rather pursue a religion designed to accommodate their lifestyle choices and allow them to hang out with similarly like-minded people under the guise of pursuing God–as they have chosen to re-create Him. (As if the ultimate Creator could ever be re-created!)

Scripture is clear, however, that God’s rules always have a purpose.  They are designed to protect us and to direct our lives as we become more like His Son—lives that are holy and set apart on purpose so that others will see the difference and want to ask that WHY question for themselves.

I know that there are those who read only a particular portion of Scripture and say how barbaric God must be and how He couldn’t possibly be kind and loving or even fun when they’ve read only that section of the Bible, but honestly, it boils down to things that are a lot simpler than all of our sophistication tries to make it.  Example:  It isn’t that God was unkind and wanted to deprive His people from the delicious taste of great barbeque when He gave them such specific food restrictions.  It was His way of protecting them because it’s really hard to tailgate with all those people on a 40-year hike through the desert without any means of refrigeration!  (grin)

While that’s a really light-hearted example and will not address the sincere frustrations many people have with God’s rules, there’s still a lot of truth in it.  His primary purpose is our protection so that we can live lives that are healthy and allow us to focus on actually having a relationship with Him.  Relationships aren’t always easy or simple.  They involve more than one voice and while God will have the final say, He’s not threatened when we question Him and His will or express our anger or our hurt at the way things are turning out for us down here.  He’s way bigger than that!  In fact, if we never question, how will we ever learn?  That basic educational truth applies here, as well.

In fact, I think it is required that we question God–and I think He likes it!  I think it shows that we’re interested in what He thinks and proves that we’re actually using that wonderful brain that He took the time to create!  Yes, there are respectful ways to talk with Him and ask those questions, but I promise you that He isn’t waiting until you get your questions grammatically correct and voiced in the proper deferential tone of voice before He’ll deign to speak with you.

So, all that basically boils down to a decided “Yes, Mendy, it is possible to be so busy following the rules that we miss God entirely.  We can live really morally acceptable lives that impress all kinds of people without ever becoming acceptable to God Himself…and in the process, we will rob ourselves of that most precious gift: a real-life relationship with the One who loves us most.  Thanks for not doing that!”

Ouch.

Anyone else remember that old song lyric about “rainy days and Mondays always get me down…”?  Well, not me!  Especially not this one!  The movers should arrive shortly and begin the real process of transferring all our accumulated treasures (grin) to our new home in Georgia.

Knowing this week would be a bit hectic here, I decided to leave my computer behind… but I hadn’t counted on finding this quote and feeling the need to share:

“The sin that is most destructive in your life right now is the one you are most defensive about.” ~Tim Keller

Well, yes…and ouch.

That little punch of truth was just too potent to keep all to myself today!  I’m pretty certain I’ll be mulling that one over as we pack…and probably for a lot longer than that.

Grace and Peace…and productive mulling wherever you are today, as well!

Promotion

“Good morning!  What are you selling today?”

That’s probably not what people ask you every morning, but they could.  Whether or not you believe yourself to be a salesperson, you are promoting something every day of your life.  So what is it for you?

Try something with me?  Listen to yourself today.  Take note of how many times you use the words “I, me, my or mine”…and then take note of how many times you mention other subjects.

Are you talking mostly about yourself?  your family?  your hobbies?  your work?  your agenda?  other people (praise/encouragement)?  other people (gossip/anger)?  God?

We generally talk most about the things about which we are most passionate.  So, what is that for you?  WHO is that for you?

Who or what are you promoting today?  Make it count.

“…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Matthew 12:34b

 

Surprise?

Several years ago I was talking with friends and sharing some of the details of my life.  Apparently, I made the following statement as I did so:  “You can’t surprise God.”

Several weeks later, I received a call from one of the friends.  She told me that she’d been thinking about something I’d shared and she had a really big problem with it.  I asked her to continue.  Her response:  “You said that we can’t surprise God!  I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that!  I like the idea that I am free to make up my own mind and my own decisions on the spur of the moment.  I’m not sure I like the idea of a God who already knows how I’m going to think/decide/respond to things that I haven’t even had happen yet.”

I laughed.  (Yes, I know.  It probably wasn’t really nice of me to do that.)

I laughed because I knew just how she felt, but it didn’t change anything—and I told her that.  God DOES know…and frankly, that’s one of the things I find most comforting about Him.

I don’t serve a God who has to run through multiple options to help me choose the right thing at any given time.  I have a God who KNOWS.  I have a God who is already prepared for me and my questions, my concerns and my mis-steps.  Since He already knows the back story details and all of the future options I will face in addition to the current jumble of questions running through my mind, He doesn’t have to be delayed in His responses to me.  He can guide me in the way that He has chosen as best for me.

Oh, trust me, I’ve taken the other road often enough to know that He didn’t create automatons who are here to simply follow Him blindly.  I’ve also taken the right ones…even the uncomfortable right ones…enough to trust that He always has my best interest at heart.

As we talked I was reminded of all the times God had allowed me the time to process things that He already knew so that I would become more adept at reading His will.  I was reminded of all the ways I could see Him more clearly because I’ve had experience recognizing His fingerprints in my world and the almost neon-like road posts He places to guide us in the right directions.

I find that I am especially grateful for that today.  I need His answers and I love that He not only knows that, but that He’s prepared the very questions that I’m asking!  He’s molding my thought processes and He’s working to make me more like His Son.  He’s in control…and the best part of it all:  He does all of this because He loves me!

No, we can’t surprise God, but He’s in the business of surprising us all the time.  The next time you’re unsure of what you should do, ask Him to open your eyes to see all the ways He’s already prepared the right path ahead of you in order to make it easier in your future.  You just might be surprised at what YOU see!

Uncomplicated

I love it when the songs we sing on Sunday stay with me throughout the week! It isn’t always the ones you’d expect, either.

This past Sunday, our worship time started off with a wonderful xylophone solo by one of our worship pastors. He started off with a very simple version of “Jesus Loves Me” and gradually transformed the notes into a fabulous rendition of “Amazing Grace” that held our congregation quietly spellbound.

As I listened to this talented musician share his gifts with us before God I couldn’t help but think about these two songs and know that they were played in the perfect order.  Jesus DOES love me (and YOU!) and we need to know and experience that love before we can ever hope to grasp the amazing grace that He also came to provide for us.

 “For God loved the world in this way. He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 (HCSB)

It isn’t complicated.  Jesus loves you.  He loves you so much that He left all of heaven behind to tell you so and make it possible for you to spend all of eternity with Him.  It wasn’t convenient or comfortable.  It also wasn’t optional.  It was necessary.  We have no other hope for grace…oh, that amazing grace.

Jesus loves me, this I know.  For the Bible tells me so…