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We Were Not Meant To Be Self-Confident

Read:  Isaiah 41:11-12

Thought For The Day:   “Their confidence hangs by a thread. They are leaning on a spider’s web.”  Job 8:14

It’s Monday and we’ve been refreshed by Sabbath and are now in a new week and facing new challenges and opportunities.  The news does not inspire confidence in me.  Television, radio, newspapers, social media . . . I had to block one person from posting on one of my “walls” because the constant postings of SCREAMINGLY negative messages LITERALLY A DOZEN IN A 15 MINUTE TIME FRAME were more than I could take.

Many times in life I have been full of self-confidence and assurance that I had it all together.  Funny, as I look back at that time I realize that life looked pretty . . . enough of this and plenty of that, yet the things I put my faith in were simply “this world” and while it made the neighbors say “ahhh” it wasn’t enough.

Life changes and sometimes we don’t see things as they are because our eyes are looking at things of this world.  When suddenly I ran short of things of this world, I was pretty shaken up.  I cried out.  I realized I was placing my confidence in the things of this world, and in myself.  It pleased those who didn’t really know me.  It pleased some of those who thought they knew me.  It didn’t please me.  I thought it did.  Things of this world are so temporary and for me to place my faith in them may give me a temporary lift but I was sure to crash when they were taken away or simply ran their course.

I thought I could handle anything.  But life in this world showed me I couldn’t rely on myself alone.  I found the crying out responded to by an inner voice.  A divine one.  One that led to my experiencing joy without the things that impressed the neighbors.  I found that the things I used to have which made me feel I had it all together were slipping away and yet there was a new confidence in me that I couldn’t entirely understand but which made me feel richer even when the bank account and the economy and the prospects the human can see look dim.  Wow.  It came from the Lord.  That “bank” account can’t go broke.  Oh, I can take my eyes off it just as I do the bank statement which comes in the mail and causes my heart to stop and my fear to rise as the balance drops.  But whether the human changes her focus temporarily or not, the Lord is still holding me close  and He’s got it all together.  He holds me together.  He holds the answers to the questions I have yet to ask Him.

So this morning when I woke with a start to things piling up on me and found panic setting in, I thought of calling a friend, I thought of texting a “WOW, I FEEL AWFUL TODAY, PRAY” to another, but this time did neither.  Not saying support from friends and prayer support are wrong, but letting go of “me” and seeking Him needed to come first for me.  When life gets too big, and I am at a loss for words, a shaky Lord HELP”  is more than enough.  He was waiting for me to see Him standing there and to realize He was hugging me close to Himself.

I don’t know where the challenges of world economy, politics, and my own human failures will lead, but I do know that I was never meant to rely on me.  I was meant to rely on Him.  When I do, shiny baubles don’t seem to gleam as brightly as the love in His eyes.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for holding me close even when I was restless and looking away from you.  Help me to live as your loving daughter fully confident in you.  Direct my feet on your path and let me not be distracted by earthly things.  Teach me to be a reflection of you in all I do.  Amen.

Feeling Weak? Rejoice!

Read:  Isaiah 40:28-30

Thought for the day:  ““Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 NIV

One of my favorite “spiritual giants” has been saying over and over, when I’m feeling battle weary, to “look at the way they treated Jesus.”  I at once both feel he’s on target yet also feel like “that was JESUS.  Surely it doesn’t apply in the same way to me.”  The quote above from Matthew’s gospel has typically struck me the same way.  “Yes, but I’m no prophet.”

Jesus didn’t choose giants, rich dudes, people who “had it all together.”  He used people like me.  You know the kind:

  • I should have known better
  • why didn’t I think of that
  • Life is scary
  • Wish I could get my act together
  • Okay, you gave me this, now what do I do with it?
  • You want me to do WHAT?

Maybe something there triggers with you.  Maybe not, but I think I can safely say we all feel weak sometimes.  Man, of late it’s been a profound thing with me.  Thinking about it didn’t help.  Praying didn’t bring the immediate “WOOHOO”  I truly wanted.  Crying, denying, and whining . . . nope.  Lashing out at a friend who THANK YOU JESUS could take it?  Nope, that didn’t help.  Well, maybe.  I’m certain he said an extra prayer.  Not gonna ask him, but it might have been “Lord, I’m getting tired of her today.”  lol  Seriously, think about the Bible stories we know so well.

The Lord uses the weak.  Those hero types?  The amazing prophets?  His worker bees . . . Peter, Thomas, Paul?  His own Mother Mary?  Simple country girl, a murderer, a bunch of sick people, fishermen, tax collectors . . .  and they changed the world.  They changed their own and their faithfulness has changed mine.

Where would I be without Jesus?  Would I know Him if not for those “ordinary” faithful folks?  How easy it could be for any of them to say “Love you Lord, but I’m so tired.  I am not capable of doing this.  Help me know what you REALLY want.  You want me to do what?  The seas are gonna part?  Huh?

  • build an ark?
  • walk all over the world telling folks to turn their hearts to you?  I’m not good with words.
  • They won’t like me if I do that . . .
  • get in a boat with a bunch of wild animals?  Huh?
  • Touch that person?  He’s got . . . you’re gonna heal him through my hands?  ME???

So, I get inspired, then tired . . . and sometimes wonder why He’s not talking to me because I must not have heard Him . . . He surely didn’t just say I am to do that for Him?  Most of us have a friend we can count on to tell us the truth.  The one you ask “does this pair of jeans make my butt look too big?” We sort of hope they’ll say “no you look great” but we need the truth and are better for it.  Surely if our human friends can be truthful and lovingly help us even when the answer isn’t quite what we expected . . . the way not easy . . . Jesus loves us enough to die for us.  He promises we will never be alone.  He asks for our heart and assures us of His power and strength and we can count on His Word.

Wow, do I feel weak.   Suddenly, it seems like an asset.  I used to think I had it all together.  Life didn’t truly begin until I let go of that lie and said yes to Him.  I may falter some, even later on today, but right now I’m rejoicing in my weakness and thankful for His strength.

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for my weakness.  Thank you for breaking my heart so you could fill it with your love.  Thank you for the honor of being your servant, your sheep.  Lead me.  I will follow.  Amen.

Are You Looking Through The Wrong Lens?

Read:  Luke 16:15

Thought For The Day:  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18

 

I have macular edema. My retinologist assures me he can treat my unhealthy eyes and that my sight will not fail. This can be treated surgically. I’ve had many procedures thus far. Things are better, but there is a lot of healing still needed. My doctor keeps assuring me that things all will be well. Still, when I read my old favorite books I know I’m not seeing things as they used to look before this happened. Why is he so sure . . . I trust my doctor. I do. Really . . . but yet I do not understand . . .

My life is in flux. I moved from all that was familiar to a place I’d dreamed of living and the Lord’s voice was loud and clear that I was following His path for my life. It’s been four years though and many things are good but then there’s a big and scary need that isn’t yet resolved. All will be well, He said and continues to assure me. I trust Him. I really do . . . but yet I don’t understand . . .

I was in the store the one day a while back. My godchild had needed some things to bring back to college with her. I wandered through the pharmacy department. I idly picked up some reading glasses, noticed the price and thought I’d grab a spare pair. Suddenly the still small voice spoke to me and as a result I tried on a few different prescriptions first. I was sure nothing would have changed. I was wrong. I needed a pair with a “lower” strength. My eyes were stronger than they’d been in two years.

No wonder I’ve had a lot of trouble seeing. I was looking through the wrong lens. I have a lot of growing and healing to experience yet and so I’m wondering if the eyes of my heart might also be looking through the wrong lens sometimes . . .

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your loving care.  Teach me to look with the eyes of my heart, your eyes.  Teach me to live and love as you do and to be your good and faithful servant.  Amen.

Jesus Said “Come To Me”

Read:  Matthew 11:16-30

Thought for the day: “ . . . surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sunday is my favorite day of the week.  Always.  Jesus is with me every moment of every day and the Holy Spirit is always deep within me guiding me, but somehow being together with the amazing body of Christ at church is like being on holy ground and nearly always fills me with such joy and new life for the coming week.  There are the occasional Sundays, though, when I’m, for one reason or another, a bit off.  The one I’m to share is an example.  As Fr Rick was about to share the daily Gospel reading, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to awaken me.  He did indeed open the ears of my heart and I heard words read, and in particular I heard verses 28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Okay, so sometimes we just need a hug and it’s so cool when someone seems to know and is there to provide it. Wow, is it special when it’s Jesus. He didn’t stop there either. On the way home I turned on Christian radio and it seemed every song and every comment made was about surrendering our heavy load to His loving arms. Song after song reminded me of what I knew but needed to hear anyway. I kept hearing songs that told me He had a plan and that He was inside me and that He was working on me and through me.

Someone told me a while back that prayer was a waste of time. “Nobody listening” was the message he conveyed. I can’t agree with him and can only pray that he will open his heart to the Lord who’s lovingly waiting for him. Why do I pray? I pray because I love the Lord. Why do I love Him?  I love Him because He first loved me.  It’s that simple.  I hunger for Him.  Even when I turn my focus off Him, He never leaves me.  My relationship with Him is the most important thing in my life.  It is my life.

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for your love.  Help me to reflect that love on those you entrust to me.  Give me your heart, your patience, and your compassion.  Amen.

Wow Christians! We Need To Get Busy!

Read:  Matthew 5:16

 

Thought For The Day:  Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”

 

If you use a search engine with the keywords “let your light shine” you will find 238,000 hits. If you then search “darkness” you’ll get a shocking 75,900,000 hits. We, as Christians have much to do. Those numbers – so sad. But, look at Matthew 5:16 and we have our commission! Reminds me, too, of my days as a church school teacher. I first taught 5th grader and I myself was just in the 9th or 10th grade in school at the time, but Mom was in charge and knew what I could do and there were no adults willing to take on the task, so there I was excited to do it!  I was to teach them the Ten Commandments.

 

It was priceless because as I tried to break them down to examples and dialog that they could understand and broaden things so they’d see there’s more to it than perhaps they thought, they’d then ask me if “when Mommy does this, isn’t that again this commandment?” Later in another parish when I was in my twenties i taught the first and second grade and they were so adorable. They were also drawn to the most “goolish” (is that a word?) parts. Interesting comparison though. The little kids – the 1st and 2nd graders – they had such strong faith. Oh, yes they could be fresh and all but usually they were fighting to see who sat next to me as I “told stories” to them. There was a pure faith so clear in them, but less evident in the 5th graders I’d taught before because they were more used to living in this world and had begun to be changed by it.

 

This ties into the “let your light shine” as our commission as Christians. We are born naked and we’re full of God and full of faith. As we are “exposed” to the world, our nakedness becomes an embarrassment and our faith becomes weakened by the world and the fact that it’s impurities take away our trust. It’s our job, as Christians, to enable folks to be in the world but to restore them to their earlier faith by reminding them that they are not OF this world. That’s really all there is to it. It really is rather simple. WE are Jesus body in this world and He will give us all we need.  We make it harder than it is. WE do. It doesn’t have to be.

 

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for loving me.  Show me the way to lead others to know you and to love you as well.  Give me your words and your compassion.  Help me to follow you in faith.  Amen

About Believing

 

Read:    John 17:20-22

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:  Psalm 106:12  “Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.”

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“I don’t believe in anything,” he said.  Wow. Think about it. How must life be for the individual who spoke those words to me a while back. I am thinking of it now because I realize I am nothing if I don’t have Christ in me and the Holy Spirit to guard and guide me . . . yet he did say that to me. He was polite. He was direct. He peppered me with questions to defend my faith, he accepted my responses and questioned me further, yet his belief in nothing remained.  He didn’t hear me with the ears of his heart. I can’t call him angry, nor can I call him joyful. I think to have passion you must believe in something even if you do not share my own specific beliefs.  I feel sad for him.   “I don’t believe in anything . . . “

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The man wouldn’t call himself an atheist nor an agnostic. In his own words he admitted that to be an atheist he’d have to believe in something and so he couldn’t lay claim to that. Why am I thinking of this now? Well, I balanced the bank account which is a test of my faith and trust in the Lord since I am still seeking financial provision and have been for a long time. I have not yet paid the next of the monthly bills and now find it impossible not to wonder “how much longer . . . ” since the human only sees, with her eyes, that which is of this world.  Yet, I do believe.  Fear hasn’t destroyed me yet.  I see the Lord’s hand in my life and I feel His presence much of the time.  I even hear His voice speaking reassurance to me.  Thinking of how much I love the Lord and of how limitless His love is for me made me sad again for the man who believes in nothing.  I cannot imagine getting through a single day . . . a single moment without my faith.  It seems to me that my existence, my life would have no meaning at all without Him.  “I don’t believe in anything . . . “

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It is easy to see the Lord’s hand in great miracles such as blind men seeing and the lame walking, but everything in life is wrapped in His love and His blessings.  Mini-miracles happen all the time.  One by one the “things” in my life over the last few years of “season change” have ceased to function.  These were things I couldn’t see my way to spending money to replace yet each time something broke, the Lord either showed me a new way or had a replacement ready for me even  before I needed it, like the day my coffee maker quit and a friend called and brought one over to my home so quickly I had my morning cup about the same time as usual.  The love of the Lord is huge and comes to us  in many forms . . . fabric an old lady gave me knowing I love to quilt, “can’t use this and thought perhaps you . . . ” In the bag was matching thread too . . . sometimes Jesus blesses us with coffee makers, bits of fabric, and so many things that we do not perhaps think of as miracles, but oh, they are!  “I don’t believe in anything . . . “  I am sorry he doesn’t, but I am so thankful that I have the gift of faith!  I pray he will find it within him as well.

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PRAYER:  Thank you Lord for the gift of faith and for keeping your eyes on me even when I take my eyes off you.  Help me to grow stronger in you and show me the way to reflect your Light in the darkness that all may believe.  Amen.

Unconditional Love

Read: Galatians 5:12-14

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-36

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I read something earlier about love. A man wanted to know if the statement he had heard from a companion declaring she was “in love” because her man had a “great sense of humor” could possibly be “real” love . . . I can’t begin to guess what’s in the heart of another but those words speak of conditional love and as he considered whether his companion might suddenly fall “out of love” if her man’s sense of humor should change, I could understand his concern.

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Since I don’t know any of the people in that love story it quickly slipped my mind. Then I read a book which spoke of another kind of love. It made me stop, think, and smile. I realized something I’d never really thought of before, or at least not in the way I suddenly realized. A writer spoke of a quote from the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel where God speaks of Jesus saying “my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” I have heard this many times. It has always sounded like a father proud of the accomplishments of his son. Taken out of context, that is surely true. This time I realized something I should have seen all along.

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For in the fifth chapter of that same gospel, while alone and praying and fasting, the Lord is tempted by Satan. Satan urges Him to turn stone into bread and offers all sorts of tempting chances to improve His current circumstances. Our Lord was 30 hears old at the time of this temptation, prayer, and fasting, and was preparing to begin his ministry. That’s when it hit me.

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When God spoke of His beloved Son with such love and pride, that love was truly and totally unconditional. Jesus had not yet begun His ministry. We have every reason to believe He lived a reasonably typical life for the culture of that day. Obeying His Mother and His earthly father, helping out in the carpentry shop. The love that His heavenly Father professed was completely unconditional. This speaks loudly to all of us. It sure did to me.

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As we wrestle through our life on earth, we are often uncertain and are faced with judgement constantly. All about us challenge us in good ways and not so good. We hear “I love you” so often but the words so many times should have also said “I love you if you do this” or “I love you when you do that.” We feel, whether we admit it or not, that we need to earn love, need to deserve it, and often that we fall short. These feelings hold us back. We, I believe, consciously or unconsciously accept God’s love assuming the same conditions apply. But they do not. When He declared His love as quoted in Matthew’s gospel, He meant it not just for Jesus, but for each one of us. He loves us without restraint and without a list of conditions which we must meet to receive it. How very blessed are we?

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PRAYER: I love you Lord. Help me to love others as you love me. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Instill in me your compassion for all living creatures. Amen.