Jeremiah 29:11: 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 a hope and a future."

Friday, December 31, 2010

Spiritual Snickers Bars

I'm still thinking about intimacy with God and that chapter from Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

One of the concepts that she writes about that I'm thinking on is what she refers to as "spiritual Snickers Bars". She relates how a friend of hers once planned a small dinner party. Her friend spent the entire day cleaning the house and preparing special foods because she wanted this dinner to be a delightful experience for her guests. But around 4PM her friend realized that she'd not taken time to eat and she was ravenous. Her friend thought it was lucky that she kept a secret stash of Snickers bars and she helped herself to two bars from her stash while she took a much deserved break. But that night when her friend sat down to dinner she discovered a problem; there was the wonderful dinner she'd worked hard to prepare, but she no longer had any appetite.

Weaver relates that her friend said that God spoke to her heart that: "we often fill our lives with spiritual Snickers bars - things like friends, books, and shopping. They may be good things, completely innocent things - but not when they take the edge off our hunger for God". Weaver goes on to pose the question of what we turn to fill up our hunger for God.

I've been pondering this question the last couple of days. I see TV, food, and day dreams as my current appetite killers. In the past business was on the list too but my husband John and I have sought during these last few years to simplify and declutter our lives so that now business isn't really a problem. I'm praying for God to empower me to be aware when these innocent things in my life are killing my appetite for Him. I'm also praying that He'd help me come up with creative ways to change my lifestyle and create new habits that sustain my appetite for Him.

What about you, have you noticed any "Spiritual Snickers Bars" that you've been eating lately?

What's God up to?

As I'm here for a few moment on New Year's Eve, I'm thinking about the change in perspective that has come about for me this year.

In the past I've been a person who always had a plan, really into goal setting. While I still find that there's something to be appreciated about the mentality, I've loosened up a lot. It's like I told a friend recently, I've come to the place where I'm much less invested in praying and striving for my specific outcomes. Repeatedly I've seen that God works in ways that I would have never figured, does things that surprise me. Yet His ways are always ultimately best (even though I can't always see this at the time). It's as if I've come to be more interested to trying to figure out what God is doing, and to join in with His work. I find myself asking - what's God up to?

I'm like everybody else, I've got some trying situations in my life. One of my sisters is a paranoid schizophrenic who refuses to take medication and who frequently mis perceives situtations and make corresponding bad decisions that put her in danger or make life difficult. My other sister lives with my mother and does not treat my mother right, and is extremely irresponsible with money so I'm constantly needing to help them out financially; I have concerns for my neice in that whole situation. My middle son appears spiritually uninterested. My youngest son seems to seek to spend the least amount of time possible around me, as if my very presence is a source of annoyance. I'm working at a job where I'm coming to admire, like, and appreciate the people with whom I work, but that is beneath my abilities, credentials, and training. The job also pays significantly less than I've made in any position in the past ten years and involves a long commute which I do not relish. Yet I know that God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has a plan for my life, a plan to give me a hope and a future.

Repeatedly in the past I've seen God take situations that seemed wretched or hopeless, in my own life or in the lives of others, and bring good outcomes. I'm reminded of a verse in Ephesians 3:20 that says that God is able to do beyond what I can even imagine. So as I look at these difficult situations in my life, I approach this new year expectantly, interested to see how God is going to work in these situations. I also desire to learn to pray more (more effectively, frequently...I'm not sure exactly how to say it...only just that I want more in my life with regard to prayer). I want to be able to hear His voice better and to have my way of thinking to change to come more into line with His way of thinking. I want to see more of His power manifest in my life. These are the things I'm looking to for this upcoming year.

What about you, what's on your heart as you approach 2011?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What was one of your favorite things this Christmas?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are sharing about something we enjoyed most this Christmas. I'm sharing a bit today about my family's great experience with our advent wreath devotions.

What was one of your favorite things this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How comfortable are you with intimacy?

Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday I look forward to our small group. We've been reading a chapter from a book entitled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver prior to each meeting and then going through a corresponding Bible study at the back of the book when we meet.

As I'm looking forward to our time together tonight I'm reflecting on the chapter for this week; it's about intimacy with God. I approached this chapter with some trepidation because the truth of the matter is that, although I long for intimacy with God, I'm not at all good at being close to God or to people either. I'm one of those people who it takes a really long time before I'm comfortable around others. If I'm totally candid, the truth is that just as I don't know what to say when I'm around people (aside from those very few with whom I've become totally comfortable), it frequently feels awkward unless there's some specific agenda that is to take place (as in work relationships).

In the past I've frequently approached God much the same way. Comfortable to use the passage from Matthew 6:9-13 as an outline, or to work my way through a specific Bible study curriculum, or even to just read the Bible. What I'm not particularly comfortable with is being quiet, being "with" God, or to take out more than 20 minutes for prayer.

Because of this deficit in me, I approached this chapter eager to learn. I'm sure grateful that we have a Heavenly Father who accepts us as we are, yet works with us to change and grow and become better.

What about you, are you, how would you rate your intimacy with God? Do you feel close to God? Do you know you're living in connection with Him and experiencing the outgrowth of that connection in your life, work, and relationships?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas time musings

Everything has just seemed so extra amped up lately; all the usual PLUS kind of thing. Today I'll be attending my fourth Christmas party connected to my job; there've been so many because of the various types of staff with whom I work and there have been parties to cater to each group. So I've had that plus most of the regular duties. But I find myself continually grateful that I work with such good and kind people, I really like them.

Last night as I drove back into our mountain town I was greeted by a light dusting of snow. My heart rejoiced. Not only in the beauty of the snow, but also in the release from the downpour of rain that has been upon us this week; it's felt as if buckets of water were being continually poured. We need the water in California but the volume was more than could be absorbed.

As I'm leaving for work today I'm thinking about how grateful I am for all Christmas represents for me. Grateful that God chose to leave His glory, majesty, and power and come here to earth in human flesh - grateful for Jesus.

My prayer for myself and all of my brothers and sisters in Christ is that we would experience His great love in a fresh new way, and in doing so, be able to pass that love along today to the people in our lives this day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A different kind of investment group

I was thinking today about a group that I belong to and how it's a different kind of investment group.

Instead of keeping each other informed about stocks and bonds and investment opportunities, we keep each other informed about our lives. Instead of investing our money, we're investing our time into one another.

Currently there are four of us women and we meet together twice each month. When we meet we talk and laugh a lot. Three of us have teenagers and we share our struggles and triumphs with our kids. We talk about the challenges in our lives. We pray for one another. We share in each other's victories. We study the Bible together. One of the ladies plays the guitar, and she always plays a few songs of praise, adoration and worship that we sing together.

We've been meeting together for close to two years. I'm so grateful that I had these friends when I went through a bunch of terrible stuff at my old job, and when I even lost my job. That was totally devasting and it made such a difference to not have to go through that alone. Sometimes when something really good happens to me, I look forward to getting to share with these ladies all about it. Mostly I just look forward to getting to "let down my hair", to talk and laugh with these ladies. My sons and husband have always been amazed in general with how much women have to talk about when they get together. To me it's just one of the things I adore about women.

I couldn't resist posting this picture because I think it depicts that type of connection that can happen among women. That silly, fun, sisterhood kind of thing.

What about you, do you have a group in your life that makes all the difference for you?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are sharing about Christmas. My post today is about some fond Christmas memories.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What new beginnings have you experienced?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are celebrating the the fact that Tony C and his wife just had a baby! In honor of the event we're posting about new life. My post today is about new beginnings with God.

What new beginnings have you experienced?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Tis the Season

I don't know about you, but Christmas kind of slipped up on me this year. It was as if all of the sudden I turned around and Thanksgiving was over, and I was hearing Christmas music everywhere and hadn't had any time to get going on all the Christmas stuff.

I'm sure grateful that our Tuesday small group has been doing a Bible study along with a companion book that's entitled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. One of the points that the book's author, Joanna Weaver, makes in the book is that there are many good things that you can do, worthy and wonderful causes to which you can comit, but that you'll end up burned out if these are not the things to which God is specifically calling you. She refers to one of my favorite scriptures from Matthew 11:27-29 where Jesus asks if the people are burned out and encourages them that if they follow Him, they don't have to live that way. Weaver makes the point that sometimes we end up burned out and frustrated because we load ourselves down with good things that God isn't calling us to, and that if we'd just take the time to follow what He has for us, that we'll be able to live in His peace.

So, as this Christmas season is beginning, I've been mulling around the question of what's God calling me to this Christmas? How does He want me to lead my family?

I don't know that I have the entire answer yet, but God has spoken a few things to my heart. He's spoken to my heart the need for traditions that keep Jesus center, the need for service and giving, the need to recognize that as my children grow some of the things we've always done won't continue to be relevant, and the need to recognize that the "perfect Christmas" is NOT what it's all about.

So as we're starting the season I've been making some changes to the usual "perfect Christmas" stuff that I do that always leaves me so tired. Like decorating the house. Over the years I've collected many wonderful gifts, things my sons have made, and even some things I've purchased myself, that I use to decorate. In the past we've literally removed boxes of books, framed photos, wall art, and other home decorations to make room for all the Christmas things. All that takes a lot of work. This year we chose instead to only remove a few things and put out our two large nativity sets, put up a live tree with white lights (which we'll eventually decorate), have our advent wreath on the dining table, and a "Celebrate Jesus" banner outside. For this year, we're simplifying and doing without the rest.

As I've recognized that my 2 sons still at home are now practically adults, I realize that they have no desire to particpate in many of the things such as the Christmas chain, 7 presents for Jesus box opening, etc. that we've done in the past. So the only tradition we've kept from those is the advent wreath which we started tonight (I know, our family's time line has never followed with the rest of the liturgical world, and we've always done the dates a bit different. My sons have never noticed because we've always attended churches that have little to no liturgy). Even tonight the boys seemed a bit resistant, but I persevered to keep the priority of what really matters. For us this time of candle lighting, scripture reading, and reflection on our Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace in Christ, keeps the season in perspective. I'd mentioned earlier in the week that we'd be starting the advent wreath tonight, then today I checked with everybody to set a time to get together. But as that time advanced there were two schools friends at the house and the boys didn't want to do the advent wreath. I explained that I'm not asking a lot, but that this 15 minute time together is priority and that their friends were welcome to either join us or stay downstairs playing some Madden football video game in which I'd found them all engaged. Although I recognize that a more spiritual person than I would have somehow managed to get the friends engaged too, I was simply grateful that my own boys came to the advent table; that this did not become an issue of contention. I think that keeping to just this one thing that we all do together increased their willingness (of course the fact that this is the one time in a year that I have egg nog avaible doesn't hurt either). I was grateful that as we each took turns reading the script, scriptures, and prayers, that everyone got into the message.

I'm still praying about what God would have us specifically do this year with reguard to giving and serving. There have been some awesome projects which we've been involved with in the past that we could do again,...or maybe God's calling us to a new thing this year. We'll see.

What about you, how's the Christmas season starting out for you this year? What are some things that you do to make Christmas meaningful for you?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What has God taught you this past year?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are celebrating the first anniversary of the Blog by each sharing about something God has taught us this past year.

I'd be interested to know, either here, or over there, what's something God's taught you this past year?
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