Source: Project SMRT
I love the days leading up to a New Year. I am a planner, a dreamer, a schemer if you may. I love sitting down with a list of my hopes and dreams and the reality of my life and filling up my calendar. I love moving from dreams to reality through having a plan. When January 1 hits I am not dragging my heels. I am jumping for joy! I love do overs. “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” I get a fresh start every single day! But ringing in the New Year reminds me of that daily truth.
The concept of a bucket list has become popular. This is the list of supposed to-dos before we die. There was a time where I did the opposite of a bucket list. I made a “I will never” list. 2013 is kind of momentous for me. It marks the 10 year anniversary of a dream lost and a life devastated. 2013 marks the year where the last of my “I will never” list lies to rest. Word to the wise. Don’t give God a list of ‘will nots’… because you will… and not only will you.. you will like it!
I am looking back. I am looking back and I am in awe. I am looking back with a heart full of gladness. I am looking back and seeing how not only is my life redeemed and restored but it is a life renewed. Because I have been given a new heart, a new life and a restored sense of purpose I am dreaming. I am dreaming big! I am dreaming with God. I am looking back over a lifetime and seeing how all things really do work together for good for those who love Him. I am looking back over a decade and acknowledging that all things do work together for good for those who are called according to His purposes. I am looking back over 2012 and knowing without an ounce of doubt that all things do work together for good for those who give it all to Him. (Romans 8:28) So, 2013 is a momentous year because I am looking back but also looking ahead at what is to come. I am looking back, looking ahead and giving thanks for the right now. The right now is good.
I am like a puzzle. I would say I am like an onion with many layers… but I don’t like onions. My husband likes to tell me I am bizarre. By that I would like to think that he lovingly means that I am complex. Who I have always been, all I have lived through, my education, my talents, my family, my job… all these things are part of the Master Plan. I read today in Max Lucado’s Grace book that I am “a masterpiece about to happen”. This is exactly how I feel. I am expectant about what this masterpiece looks like. This is why I am so excited! I am right on the verge of it… day by day as I choose to walk with purpose and passion I see how the masterpiece is being revealed. I see all the pieces of my life thus far working together for His good purposes. Once upon a time, not that long ago I said I will never… well today God I say “BRING IT ON! I WILL AND I WILL LIKE IT!”
I get to go back to the mission field this year. Yes, it is only for a week but it is doing what I never allowed myself to dream of doing ever again. When I left the mission field in 2003 with very little to call my own I was but a shadow of a person. I was so beat up, alone and distraught that I never thought I would see the light of day again. My life’s calling was a thing of the past. I never believed that I would get to serve the Lord again in any capacity. I had messed up and I lost big. I thought my life was over. It hasn’t been easy since then and I have certainly lived through some dark moments, some bad choices and times of desperation. Psalm 40 has become kind of a key Bible passage for me. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. he put a new song in my mouth.” I am going to sing my 2013 song in Ecuador this March and I can barely contain my enthusiasm. I will get to embrace our little compassion child Henry and look into the eyes of those who are hurting and be able to say “it will be ok… I am living proof… you will be ok!” Yes, 2013 is going to be a good year. I will never, ever, ever say ‘never’ again 😉
I would like to thank whoever thought it would be a good idea to make GPS readily available to the ‘common man’. It is brilliant really. With all that most of us have on our plates on any given day it is nice to be able to release the burden of navigating to this handy device. Granted, it isn’t foolproof. I know that I have travelled more than one secluded dirt road in recent years in order to get to my final destination. Selecting ‘fastest route’ over ‘direct’ doesn’t always seem to be the most advisable option. There have been times however when I could easily have pitched the device out the window and foregone any future GPS adventures.
In my convoluted thought processes I have been equating the use of my GPS and my occasional frustration with it to my old VHS player that would regularly eat videotapes. This was back in the day of course when VHS tapes were the norm and my children were at that age where it was a choice between going crazy or putting on a video for them. I have nursed more than one videotape back to life simply out of desperation to have a quiet moment where my then toddler children would sit still. With that in mind however, those revived videotapes were never quite the same. There was always a garbled section that remained. My choices were limited at the time. It was either watch the tape anyway in spite of the garbled part or chuck it. Normally I lean towards the latter… chuck it. But in this instance it was the survival instinct of a young mom that had me persevere with the much loved ‘Sharon, Lois & Bram’ videos and other contentious choices.
Those moments in life that make us want to give up and call it quits on a given issue or ‘chuck it’ moments come up more often than we care to admit. My life for many years resembled that garbled videotape. I was defined by the garbled section. I was all consumed with how deficient I was because of the fact that I had a garbled section to begin with. Although I never wanted to ‘chuck’ my life, I did have the strong sense of my life dreams being over and my purpose in this world being ‘shelved’. This isn’t any different from the GPS that brings us on occasion over a really rough and desolate road or to a dead-end. Garbled videotapes and travelling the wrong path share a lot in common.
Do you know what my favorite part of the GPS is? When it reads the word ‘Recalculating’ on the screen. As much as we have gone down a wrong path, as much as we feel that we are too beat up and our lives too garbled to be useful; the Lord makes a way. When we seem to hit a wall and find ourselves at a dead end He makes a way.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV) says:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
I have seen the ‘Recalculating’ screen come up repeatedly in recent years. My God has a plan for me. A plan that is so far beyond what I can ever imagine that at times it leaves me breathless. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He takes our messy lives and makes them part of a plan for HIS Kingdom purposes. That is exactly where I want to be!
No matter how far off the road we go. No matter how many dead-ends we hit the Lord provides a GPS for life. Through an active and vibrant relationship with Him we have everything we need to get to where He wants us to be. His Word gives us the roadmap for how we are to live in this world. No matter how hard we try; nothing can separate us from Him. (Romans 8:31-39) There is nothing that we can do… no matter how blurry the lines or garbled the life that makes Him want to write us off and chuck us. He loves us way too much for that and because He is the Almighty God He can redeem ANYTHING and ANYONE!
There was a time when I was ready to give up and to go through life barely living. I was existing but I was not thriving. Through the active pursuit of the Creator of the Universe… my Creator I have seen the ‘Recalculating’ screen and that is what now defines me. I am deeply loved, absolutely forgiven and complete because of Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior. I know that He desperately wants the same for all of us. Watch and Listen for His voice and You will see His activity abound and you too will be defined by His activity in your life, His recalibrating and recalculating. Thank You for saving me Lord… what more can I say?
A recurring theme in my life in recent months has been the power of my thoughts and attitudes in relation to the world. It is almost to the point where I am irritated with myself to find that I am stuck once again in a tug of war between being righteously indignant about some perceived wrong and alternatively recognizing each situation as an opportunity to become a woman of godly character in both practice and word in spite of … or should I say because of my challenges?
Micah 6:8 says: “He has shown you, O man (or woman) what is good and what the Lord requires of you… to walk justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” Easier said than done when the figurative ‘hits keep coming’. I have always found it significantly easier to deal with the tangibles… ie. good vs. bad. There are however terrible circumstances that we find ourselves in where there is no right and wrong … there is no ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’. In these circumstances it is almost an insurmountable hurdle to scale short of the grace of God intervening mightily.
I am thankful for the increase in sunny days over rainy days this week. This increase in gratefulness isn’t for the reason that you might be thinking. Although I do really enjoy the sun and warm days.. .the reason for this extra dose of gratitude is directly related to my ability to roll down the windows in my minivan following a recent incident. I have even contemplated albeit briefly donning either a pair of ‘doggles’ to ride like a dog with my head out the window or wearing a mask and snorkel to help cope with the aftermath of ‘the incident’. I would give anything for a sunroof or a convertible about now….
Wednesday was a challenging day. It wasn’t to be so… but it turned out to be ‘one of those days’. I had settled in with my coffee after having sent my children off to school and my husband off to work. I was still sleepily making my ‘to do’ list for the day and somewhat contemplating a trip back to bed to get a bit of a handle on my sleep deprived state. However, I never got to that point. The phone rang at 8:05 a.m.. My daughter in tears stated that she wasn’t feeling well. I talked her through it and thought that we had an action plan in place… that if she still felt ill by lunchtime to give me a call. No such luck. My husband called me back at 8:25 a.m. telling me that our daughter had absolutely refused to get out of the vehicle and was now howling loudly in the backseat of his truck. He had to go to work right away so I had to go and pick her up. Did I mention that I had my day more or less planned… and that I was still in my pyjamas?!? I threw on some clothes, a hat over my bed head, licked my finger to remove the sleepy from the corner of my eyes and off I went. I didn’t have time to do much with the dogs so I piled them into the van too thinking that at least they might enjoy the car ride… which they typically do. Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes later with dogs and daughter in tow we found ourselves about 3 minutes from home. The younger dog, our 3 1/2 month old Saint Bernard Bozley got very demanding and loud… I was thinking he was just hot and tired of being in the van. So I impatiently told him to hush… repeatedly. He tried to climb on my lap more than once and I persistently pushed him back. Finally, thinking that he had settled I looked back and saw him climbing up on the backseat of the van where Buttercup (our 3-year-old Saint Bernard) was napping. It was kind of cute actually with the young pup clambering all over her. I actually smiled to myself for a moment when I saw that. I returned my attention to the road… and then the smell hit me. My daughter looked back and saw that Bozley (the pup) was having a very loose bowel movement all over Buttercup and the backseat of the van… and then to finish up climbed down and continued to make another pile right in the middle aisle of the van too. I couldn’t get home soon enough at that point. I tore into our driveway while rolling down every single window and hurtled to a stop. I ripped open the doors and shouted for everybody to get out of the van “NOW!!!”. I would like to say that I handled this situation with grace and dignity… but I did not. My daughter who had scooted inside upon our arrival came back out to find me several minutes later on hands and knees in the van doing my best to clean up the mess. I was crying…. A LOT! By crying… I mean the big, loud, ugly kind of cry… the kind that could be heard for miles around. It was a cry of despair and discouragement that emanated from the depths of my very annoyed and disgusted being. And then I started to laugh… the big, uncontrollable, tears streaming down the cheeks, crazy-person kind of laugh. The humour of the situation does not escape me. This is one of those moments where the expression ‘it is what it is’ applies. There was nobody to blame… except me for not having listened to Bozley’s pleas. It wasn’t my daughter’s fault for feeling ill and disrupting my schedule. This is one of those cases where you have to ask “what can I learn from this?” “How could I have handled it better?” “Where is the spiritual application?” (Yes… I really am asking God for a ‘life lesson’ to share with others from this — I know this might be a stretch).
Perspective. It is pretty hard to keep a healthy perspective when you are knee-deep in doggy doo…. literally and figuratively. So what do we do with the daily challenges, disruptions, inconveniences, and even traumas that come our way? We cry out to the Lord God our Maker. “I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40) We can approach Him in all things…. even in those situations that result from our own wrong-choices… especially then! Within our own strength there is no way that we can maintain a godly perspective… but moment by moment as we commit ourselves to Him and approach Him with our needs in each situation He will help us to see the things in us and around us through His eyes. I wonder what He was thinking when He heard that particular cry in that particular moment?
If you see me in the next week or so… I’ll be the one driving with my head out the window… be sure to wave!
You couldn’t go anywhere these past few weeks without being inundated by chocolate bunnies, eggs and baskets. Easter has arrived! Families have frantically been planning this year’s feast and perfect easter egg scavenger hunt. It is a time for people to gather together and to reflect on…. bunnies?!?
I am an active believer in Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his tortuous and unduly cruel death, and his resurrection from the dead on the third day. To some this account might be as unbelievable as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. Some believe a little about Jesus. Some people stop at the virgin birth. Other’s say he was a good prophet. A good man. An innovator. I don’t accept that. It isn’t enough. It is all good stuff to say that Jesus lived a good life and did good things… but it isn’t enough. Jesus came and died so that I might live…. so that YOU might live. I can say this with absolute confidence because just as I say that I am an active believer in Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ is actively involved in my life and has been since I first chose to believe.
I have lived in fear of my shadow for much of my life. The shadow of which I speak is actually a figurative one consisting of my short-comings, my failures, my mistakes…. all of these are numerous. There have been times when I have been all but consumed by my shadow. I have lived in darkness. It is a scary place to be. There is no hope there. There is constant fear. There is loneliness. I knew that I wasn’t good enough and lived in fear that if I didn’t do enough that everyone would see ‘my shadow’. I wanted freedom from darkness. I wanted hope for a future. I wanted to live an abundant life. I wanted to cease living in fear. And then I chose to believe.
God saved me by his grace when I believed. And I can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. he has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10 New Living Translation)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 New Living Translation)
Sin. One little word that holds a lot of weight. It is offensive. I hate to say it but this one word is a significant part of our daily existence. Sin is a little white lie. A nasty thought. An unkind word. A hateful attitude. And this is only the tip of the iceberg! Because we are deeply flawed due to our sin nature that began with Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3)there is no way we could ever measure up. Nobody wants to be accused of being a ‘sinner’. Guess what? We are ALL sinners. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23 New Living Translation) Left to our own devices we are like a child trying to run away from their own shadow. It is impossible. There are lots of good people in the world who do lots of good things but apart from God they will never measure up.
God loves us so much. He sent His only Son Jesus to die for us so that if we believe in Him we will have eternal life. (John 3:16 New Living Translation)
Me and my shadow have been together for a long time. My shadow has weighed me down and held me back. Apart from Jesus I would have been hopeless and defenseless. In John 10 Jesus talks about being the ‘Good Shepherd’. He calls us by name (v. 3). He walks ahead of us so that we know which way to go (v.4). His purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life. (v.10) He has plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” Says the Lord “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I know what it feels like to be alone. I know what it feels like to be hopeless. I know what it feels like to live in darkness. Easter commemorates not only that Jesus died but that He rose again. He paid the price for my sin through this loving act. He is actively involved in my life in spite of my shortcomings. He accepts me as I am; failures and all. He loves me and He has plans for me. His plans are bigger and better than anything I could ever imagine for myself. He takes all of the mess that is me and makes it into a beautiful masterpiece. All of this is possible not because of Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs … (which by the way are really yummy) which at the end of the day are very unsatisfying. All of this is possible because on Good Friday he suffered and died and paid the price for my sin with his own body and blood. And 2 days later He conquered death and rose from the grave. (Matthew 27:11 – 28:20; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. I DO believe in my Lord, Savior, Redeemer and Friend. I invite you if you are reading this and you don’t already believe In Jesus to explore the possibility that Jesus Christ is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. There is hope in this dark world. There is freedom from our shadows. He has a plan for YOUR life too… let Him in. You won’t be disappointed.
I was thinking on the ‘Good Samaritan’ story a little bit this morning. (Luke 10:25-37) This is the story where a priest and a Levite pass by a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead without stopping to help him. I was thinking that if the ‘Good Samaritan’ felt anything like I do sometimes that perhaps he too would have passed on by. He would have kept on going because he wouldn’t even have seen the wounded man on the side of the road in the first place.
We often walk around in a fog so consumed with our own ‘stuff’ that we miss seeing those around us entirely. I imagine that the Samaritan in the story had places to go, things to do, people to see… yet he stopped and cared for this man on the side of the road anyway. Most of us are on ‘auto-pilot’ these days. We have our daily lives and schedules and there is little room for actual people and relationships within that framework unless we ‘schedule them in’. On top of that, sometimes we are so internally focussed and dealing with our own emotional baggage that we can scarcely lift our gaze to meet another’s let alone actually see them.
I felt conviction of sin this morning at church. I had arrived in a ‘funky fog’ … meaning that it had been ‘one of those mornings’ and I was having a hard time snapping out of it. The sermon series for the past few weeks has been on ‘People reaching people’. I got to thinking ‘How the heck am I going to be effective in reaching people when I go around either in a bustle of busyness or a fog of funkiness?’ I recognized my ‘funk’ for what it was. My ‘funk’ was selfishness… plain and simple. My ‘funk’ had become my ‘god’ of the moment. Anything that takes my eyes off of Him is a false god. And as long as I allowed a funk to define me I would never be effective at reaching people because I wouldn’t even see them in the first place. The enemy of our souls delights in our funkiness. As long as we are looking in we most certainly are not looking up. And as long as we are not looking up we most certainly will never reach out.
I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating. We live in a hurting world. Hurting people need to be seen, known, and loved.
Jesus said in Luke 10:27 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Micah 6:8 says:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD requires of you,
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Today is the day where we can choose to actually see someone and reach out to them in love. We can be someone’s ‘good samaritan’. We can also choose to extend a hand of mercy and love as we walk humbly with our Lord daily.
I am not much for watching the daily weather report. I find it kind of a bummer and a tad unpredictable. I would hate to get my hopes up only to have them dashed by a surprise storm. I would rather fly by the seat of my pants where the weather is concerned. If there is a storm coming I am more likely to receive my weather warning from my mom than from the newscast anyway. When I lived in the mountains I could predict oncoming inclimate weather with a headache. No such luck today. It might have helped my morning start off a little more smoothly if I had known that there was to be another deluge of snow today. I am however quite aware that there is a great deal of water accumulating in the region.. and particularly in my own front yard.
When I found myself wading through slush and dodging giant snowflakes this morning I was anything but disinterested in the rough start to our Spring season. We live out in the country and I have been watching the ditches and farmer’s fields with great interest as it is a fairly good sign of what is going to happen in our own yard in the days ahead. If I didn’t know any better I would swear that we were on lakeside property. There is a lot of snow on our land which translates into a lot of water when we are rid of the occasional snowstorms once and for all. Our land doesn’t tolerate this well. Lake Campbell sticks around way too long for my liking… although our Saint Bernard Buttercup loves to bound around in it. This also is not to my liking. There are times when I feel like shaking my fist at the sky shouting “Enough is enough already!”
Isn’t this just like life? Just when we think we are free and clear of trouble another trial comes our way. We reach our saturation point long before our troubles come to an end. I have found myself on more than one occasion crying out to God and in essence shaking my fist at Him saying “Enough is enough already Lord!” I am so grateful for a relationship with my God that allows me to do just that. He understands. He doesn’t take it personally. And He is eager to help. This doesn’t mean that the storms will stop coming but it does mean that with Him in the boat we can smile at the storm. (Matthew 14:22-33) Nothing is too difficult for Him. (Jeremiah 32:17) When we reach our saturation point He gives us the strength to carry on. (Philippians 4:13) At times He carries us… more often than we realize or care to admit.
I am going to be more diligent in observing my Spiritual temperature in the days ahead as the deluge of life rains down a little more than I can handle sometimes. I don’t want to reach my saturation point and only then find myself crying out to Him. If I am actively involved with Him daily I can take on the world… storms and all. The hope in my heart this Spring has sprung and the wellspring that is His love for me overflows.