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."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spiritual Gifts

This week over Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about spiritual gifts God's used through us to love others.

What about you, have you seen God bless others through His spiritual gits in you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Tyranny of Self

This morning these words from 1 Peter 4:1 (MSG) grabbed my attention:

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

To be candid, I’ve lived a life filled with the tyranny of self; and have a whole legacy of addictions and unhealthy relationships to show for it. However, in these last few years I’ve seen some changes in my life - I’ve simply come to the point where I see that my ways weren’t getting me where I really want to go, that God’s ways are best.

Yet, still….those of you who read my words here very often are aware of how I’ve struggled over the past couple of years with my job & career, and with my teen sons. In these two realms of my life I’ve kind of figured that since my desires are basically good and right desires, that of course it’s reasonable to seek earnestly after what I want to see happen in these areas.

I’m not saying that this verse means that it’s wrong to seek after these things, yet when I look at this verse I’m confronted with an entirely different perspective.

As I read these words from 1 Peter 4:1 it’s like my world gets turned upside down and looked at from the backside. In this world-from-the-backside, expecting to get my way is something to avoid; where as in my front-view-world the whole approach is to strategize how to achieve my way. In this world-from-the-backside, expecting to get one’s way is for babies, something to be weaned from. The weaning process is the experience of NOT getting what I want, and learning to be content in Jesus during the midst of these painful experiences.
Wow. So simple. But not at all easy.
I’d really be interested in your thoughts on this; how do you surrender your will? What does it look like in your life to be free from expecting to get your own way?

Friday, February 18, 2011

What about when you’re not sure what’s right?

Alternate Title: Another vent post

Sometimes in Christian circles we spend time talking about how we just need to do the right thing. But what about situations when it’s not at all clear what is the right thing to do?
In the past those kinds of situations have come up a lot in my work, and I always just pray and “give it my best shot”. But I find it more difficult when it comes to my teen son because the situations are emotionally charged.
In short, this son is giving me much grief; he’s definitely not seeking after God, and is pursing pleasure in many of the wrong places. He went from being a basically A & B student to failing classes. He’s disrespectful, and my husband John caught him and some friends smoking Marijuana. When he went to visit a college that he ended up signing on with for a football scholarship, he called me and spoke about how much fun he was having playing “beer dice” (now why would he tell his mother such a thing?!) When I try to talk with him, he’s not interested in what I have to say. When I set limits or consequences, if at all possible, he ignores them.
This week I received a progress report from his school that showed that he’s in danger of failing one class, and as of now has an F in another class. The class where he’s at an F right now wrote in the comments section that he has too many absences and tardies. Yet I drive him to school early each and every day. So last night I called and tried to get his biological father to cancel or remove his cell phone service. I explained that this would limit his ability to text friends prior to school so that he could leave with them once I’d dropped him off. I also explained that I have told this son that he is no longer able to have friends over to our home until he gets these grades back up and that I am concerned that he will just text friends to come pick him up and leave with him. My hope was that not having his cell could assist with managing this. His father refused. His dad agreed that this son is going a bad way, and had no suggestions as to things we could do to be helpful, but was not willing to cancel the service.
The “right thing” to do is not so obvious. All I know to do is to think on what is true and act accordingly. So I spent some time today pondering truth principles and came up the following:
  • God loves this son more than I could ever dream of loving him, and will not stop seeking him out to bring him back to Himself.
  • The prodigal son’s father never held his bad behavior against him in terms of loving that son and extending him forgiveness when he tired of his sinful ways. The time will come when this son realizes that the paths he’s pursing are not leading where he wants to go (and may that time be sooner than later). May I be there loving him and accepting him when that time comes.
  • I can not control another person’s behavior. Not even my own son. But I can control my actions. This includes things like:
I can say that his friends are not welcome in our home right now. I can even talk to them if they do come over and politely explain.
I can choose to no longer give him money for anything since I am not certain that he’s spending it as he claims.
I can let him know that the curfew is at 10PM on week days and 12 midnight on the weekends and lock up the house at those times.
I can pray, pray, pray and pray some more.
I can choose to trust God and apply those words from Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG):
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when God displaces worry at the center of your life.
What about you, what do you do when it’s not clear what’s the right thing to do?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's your heart full of?

Since Valentine’s Day was this week, we’re celebrating Love in general, and our spouses in specific, over at Kingdom Bloggers this week. I shared a bit today of what my heart is full of when I think about my husband John.

What about you, what's your heart full of at Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Word that Conceived New Life

This morning the following words from 1 Peter 1:23-25 caught my attention:

Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm, your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
Its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop
God’s Word goes on and on forever.

This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

It’s definitely a mystical occurrence. God’s Word in us caused us to come into the new life that’s referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:17. But that Word is not simply the words on the page of the Bible, it’s the Holy Spirit taking those words and making them a real life revelation to our hearts. I’m so grateful that He did that for me!

Countless times I’ve watched people I know read the same words from the Bible that I find breath-taking in their beauty and meaning, only to remain un-moved by them. That’s about the Spirit revealing truth to me in my inner most being, and that’s all about His grace and goodness to me, it’s nothing about me. But these thoughts do create a desire in me to pray for the people in my life who have not yet received God’s Word. To pray that the enemy be bound so that God’s Word can pierce their hearts and bring them to new life.

May I never take for granted this new life that He’s given me through His Word.

What about you, what grabs you from this passage?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How do you like to spend time with God?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are each sharing about creative ways to spend time with God.

What about you, how do you like to spend time with God?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Character that you can count on

Last night I read the following words of Joanna Weaver’s in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World:
“God’s ways are not our ways, but His character is still dependable.”
Those words have been echoing about in my head since I read them.
As I shared here recently, I’ve been struggling with my whole work situation. I’ve been frustrated because, although I really like the people who we serve and the people with whom I work, I want to do more. I also want to make more money. Yet I continue to experience rejection as I apply for one job after another. A part of me knows that God knows best, but another part of me struggles because I want things to be different.
Even though I can not see how things will turn out, I am grateful that I know that God loves me and has good plans for my life (Romans 8:27-29, Jeremiah 29:11, 1 Peter 1:2). I’m grateful that even in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances that I do not understand, I have a glimpse of God. That bit of Him that I know, convinces me of His trustworthiness.
I am grateful that He actually wants me to get to know Him better. I’m convinced that as I come to know God better, that I will find trust easier.
What about you, have you had any experiences lately where God has shown Himself dependable in your life? Are there any scriptures that you cling to because they assure you of God’s heart and faithfulness?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What about when things just don't seem to work?

God is good and I'm more than grateful for His great love for me. Grateful that Jesus took my sins on Him and has made me clean, grateful that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me and gives me hope, power, direction, conviction, and strength.

But have you ever noticed that sometimes, even though we have all these good and wondrous things as Believers in Christ, that sometimes life can sure knock you down? Sometimes it's hard to figure out why God's letting what's going on happen?

I remain ever grateful for the passage in Isaiah 55:6-12 that reminds me that His ways are not our ways, that He is God and there will always be much that I do not understand.

Now me, I struggle with being selfish (and if the truth be known, sometimes I'm a real whiner at heart).

A couple of years ago I was fired for the only time ever from a job. I'd worked for the company for close to 9 years, had an excellent track record, and had one of those 6 figure jobs. I was shocked and devastated; truly understood that phrase about feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Like many people in similar circumstances I felt lost for quite a while after that, had troubles sleeping and struggled to find my place in life. Then, as I began to go to job interviews and was turned down one after another, well, let's just say that, although I've never stopped loving God and choosing to speak words of gratitude for all that the blessings in my life, I was struggling deep down inside with feelings of bewilderment and discouragement.

A few months ago I was hired for a job that was basically a step down position that paid less than half what I used to make. But I believe in what we're doing at this company, adore the people whom we serve, and really like my co workers and supervisors. Each and every day that I go to work I do my absolute best and the executive director has made it a point to tell me on a few occasions how happy they are with me. I enjoy my work days. But, ...if I'm candid, I long for more. Long to be in a position where I can use more of the skills that I worked for decades to develop.

So when I'm not at work I continue to try to make myself more marketable. Undertook some intense studying and passed an exam to acquire a certification in human resources. Continue to trust God while I try to do my part by continuing to apply for other positions.

Then just this past week it looked like God was opening a door. I'd seen a job last Sunday afternoon that looked great and was even close to my home (a very rare thing given that I live in a small resort town in the mountains of southern California); so I applied. On Monday that company's recruiter called me and we played phone tag but finally caught each other on Tuesday. She basically pre-screened me then set up for me to come in to their corporate offices (a close to 3hr drive from my home) to interview with several people. Prior to the interview she wanted me to complete their application on line. Since I would be leaving work early on Wednesday, I stayed late on Tuesday. After that I went home and worked on that application. For some reason the application took a long time to complete and then I decided that my resume didn't look good enough and I wanted to put my best foot forward so I re-worked my resume and made copies for Wednesday's interviews. Needless to say, I got very little sleep that night but ran well on Wednesday utilizing adrenaline. The first two interviews went great and I was thinking that God was really opening the doors, but then came the third interview. It went terrible. I've never had such a bad interview experience. That man and I were as far from "clicking" as is humanly possible. He kept asking "what do you mean by that?" and I kept explaining, using concrete, past work experience examples, and he kept coming to conclusions that were not the ones I was trying to make. I could tell that he was really not liking me. When the interview ended he took me into a waiting area while he went and handed by file to a woman behind a desk. I don't think they realized that I could see them; he wrote something in my file. The woman called the recruiter and when the recruiter came down the woman pointed to something that the man had written in my file and laughed. The recruiter however looked frustrated. She came out and spoke extremely kindly (like she felt sorry for me) to me and sent me on my way with an I'll call you comment (which I think we both know that she won't).

So I found myself asking - hey God, why'd I have to go through all that if I'm not even gonna get the job? Then I feel guilty, because of course my problems are extremely petty compared to all the other hardships in the world - hunger, victimization, death of a child, debilitating illness, etc. I mean honestly - how can I complain?

Oh but I can, because I'm human. Because this is my experience.

Wish that I could come up with some great and profound response to all this. But I can not. Instead I continue to move forward in what truth I do have, convinced that even though I do not understand it, God is in control of all things. Convinced that while it is not within my power to control all the outcomes, it is my responsibility to do what I know to do today.

What about you, ever have those experiences when things just don't seem to work? What do you do when that happens?
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