"I never would have dreamed any of this
two years ago. ... The winds had changed
in our lives." [Pg 180, 181]
Has your life changed by the reading of Anything? When I finish a book I begin to take count of the thoughts I have that are different, reviewing the ways I've changed. New understandings added. Unconventional questions being born that in turn take me deeper into my faith.
Changes don't always last or have a large impact, but you know, it's often true that the little things are the ones that stick with us. One morning, way down the road, you wake up realizing you are different. A situation has ended in a manner you would not have anticipated knowing yourself as you do. And the change is good. You trace that change back to a trailhead where long ago you turned right instead of left (like you used to do).
What happened? Likely a word got into your heart and grew a bit. Someone you didn't know personally made a difference in your life through the telling of their experience, their offers of encouragement, or just in sharing their hopes and failures all with a listener they would never know, yet whom they cared for.
I see divergent trails in the image above. Life is like that. Someone's life can be dramatically different from what we think we see. Taking a moment to look deeper (or to read their story in this case) brings more understanding, more clarity of what’s ahead of us, what we see in our own life by joining in the life lessons of others.
I am very thankful for those women who have opened their heart to share their life with total strangers including all it's humanness, joys, failures and sorrows. For me, by the time I finish a book, the author has often become a dear friend.
I hope you will join us for our new journey, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by Joanna Weaver, which begins February 9, 2017. It's an opportunity to grow and be inspired. What can we learn from Joanna's message? How does she express what God is teaching her? What wisdom will we glean by walking into the journey with her?
“I used to feel inconvenienced when I was asked to give. Things have changed. Now I don’t want to miss participating in things that last forever.” [Pg 174]
In her book Jennie is beginning to sum things up and asking us, ‘do we want to participate in something that lasts forever?'
Jennie isn’t talking about time generally as in I'll love you forever, or like time here on our planet, or even meaning the lifetime of our planet itself. No. She’s talking about that eternal time when we enter the presence of Jesus, or the world ends (whichever comes first). So then the question becomes ‘what can we offer that makes a difference in another's forever, eternity?
Maybe we have lives filled with family, friends, lay-ministry, service in our community and school or other volunteering. Do activities like this make that difference? I can only speak for myself in defining what could matter.
1. I pray for my family, friends, the prayer team, our nation, and others. Prayer does make a huge difference. Maybe we don't see it, or perhaps may never know this side of heaven but Scripture reads: "In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed." Mark 1.35 The example being if Christ, whose purposes were so full, found prayer to be a priority and important for God's cause and their relationship, then wouldn't my attention to prayer also be important and necessary?
2. I try to encourage and support others pointing to God's work and love. God is at work in our lives in ALL things. "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8.28 When struggles come, and they will, God has to be our default. He is our strength, power, and endurance in all things, even and especially when we don't understand.
3. I try to follow God's precepts for the example it gives our grandchildren who are literally the love and light of my heart. Their best gift is to see that in all things nanny loves God and trusts him. I don't always measure up, I'm sure you could guess that. But I am aware of the difference these efforts make and I try to be that good example of faithfulness. "Your shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, ... Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied ... " Deuteronomy 11.18a, 19-21a
So, does my life even remotely resemble Jennie's? Maybe. The question is am I helping make an eternal difference in someones life? Are you? Don't assume you need to be exactly like Jennie to have that eternal impact for someone. Follow your gifts and callings ... it will be okay. He'll use it all... (:
"He is a person, not a magic
pill you take when your life or your soul is broken. He is a person. He is a person you talk to and listen to and love and respect. He's someone you decide to spend time with ... "
Have you wondered, as you have
read through Anything, "How do
I develop that kind of faith?" It's a good question. After all, most of us don't have that kind of relationship with God, and we don't know many who do.
The example of Jennie's faith isn't random. It is undeniable. It's real. Enduring. Cooperative. Leading. Empowering. And complete. How do we develop that kind of relationship? Is it a deep secret, a hidden formula? No. God asks only one thing of us to develop the very relationship that Jennie and her husband enjoy. In her book Jennie writes, "He's someone you decide to spend time with ..."
There's no magic. There's no secret. We all have this one thing we can offer in exchange for this ridiculously incredible Divine connection: Our time.
Responding by giving up some of our time will open all the doors. Doors to depth, and nearness, love, filling, and HOPE. Every little tiny thing you will ever thought you needed will be opened to you ~ yet too, so much more than you can imagine in this moment.
The thing about deep relationship with God is it becomes intoxicating. It becomes your life. He becomes the first thing you need each day, the power that drives you forward in all circumstances. He becomes real.
Is there a voice in your heart even now, nudging you to respond, speaking softly? Don't be afraid. You won't lose yourself, you gain him.
Shh. Do you hear that?
Sit with me.
Talk to me.
Let me strengthen your heart.
Hold onto my teachings.
Please take time to know me...
Jennie isn't special. But she is locked into that divine relationship. He took her offer of time and ran with it developing far more than she or her husband could imagine. You can have that too.
In our next took, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World we are going to look at how, in today's crazy-busy world, we can find time to develop that Divine relationship.
For right now, listen for his calling. Take a moment to be present and whole when he does. A good question to start with is why would he call in that moment? It's the beginning of wonder.
Shh. Did you hear that?
" [we] ... long to participate in something
bigger than PTA and cheering for the
Mavs. I think God wrote that into our souls. We were made for this bigger story ... we were made to show the glory of God ... " [Pg 158]
Years ago in school I had a chance to delve
into a topic I found absolutely fascinating ~ electron-microscopic images. An electron microscope brings the tiniest objects into a visible reality magnifying them up to 10,000,000 times. That's hard to wrap your mind around. But when you see the images of things we don't often notice, it's mysterious design can be breathtaking.
This is an image of the sands of our ocean beaches when viewed through an electron microscope. Who knew? It's unique beauty and exceptional form may influence how you feel about the sand between your toes next time you're on the beach. God's creativity and imagination are on display here, but still only the very tip of his ridiculous glory is seen.
Jennie wrote, "... we were made to show the glory of God ..." and how true a statement that is. There has been only one unique human being to enter this world, and he waits for us now in heaven. All of us, every last one, is only a representation, a creation of love and hope sent with one purpose: to spead the glory of God's message to all the world through our unique giftings, struggles, skills, etc. None of us is above another.
Our father wrote:
All these things [the gifts, the achievements, the abilities, the empowering] are brought about by one and the same [Holy] Spirit, distributing to each one individually just as He chooses. 1 Corinthians 12.11 [Amplified Version]
God's creation of unique wonder, that which we call the human race, is made up of tiny particles whose beauty we will miss unless we take the time to look and listen closely to the individual who also holds within the glory of God.
"Tears came as I felt God whispering, Jennie, what if
you had been too afraid to
obey me? Look at what you
would have missed." [Pg 153]
Have you had a time when you faced a difficult challenge? Maybe it was a challenge of faith like Jennie encountered, or maybe it was an event? Whatever it was, it tested all you had inside. And yet, in that challenge you recognized how the effort required from you to persevere was also the catalyst God used to create amazing spiritual growth.
During those days, when the trials were upon you, their weight bearing down ~ did you feel his presence, his love and his hand holding you together? Did you feel his encouragment drawing you nearer, and nearer, and nearer... until finally, your faith bloomed with petals of unimaginagle glory and intoxicating fragrance, glowing with hope that would beat back all the pain?
A couple weeks ago I dislocated my ankle, breaking it in two places. I had fallen onto my knees in the ice-covered snow unaware that my foot had become wedged at a right angle between the two paving stones. The result caused the dislocation and leg bones to fracture on each side at the ankle. I remember the feeling, the body's alert system reporting to me what had happened. After a second of disbelief, I heard myself cry out, "Dear Lord, NO! Not now..."
There is no time more precious to me than Christmas eve with my family and it was just a few days away. Our home was in total upheaval being in the middle of an untimely, but necessary, repair. Everything, and I do mean everything, from the living and dining rooms had been crammed into the downstairs family room. Before this injury we might have pulled it all together. But now?
In the days after we were blessed with an outpouring of love and well-wishes from friends. The church ladies (whose ministry it is to prepare meals ahead for those who might need) stuffed a freezer shelf full. There came cookies, visits and notes, emails, flowers and texts from so many. All offering deepest encouragement and love. Our youngest son and his wife took on hosting the Christmas eve family celebration with just days to prepare, and our older children (with their children) arrived here the day after Christmas to help their dad paint so we could have more than just the kitchen to live in while I heal.
I have never been in a situation where need was so acute. My point is that my understanding of how we show his love has uniquely grown. How could it not? Jesus taught us:
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. [John 13.34]
We all know the above verse, but never has it been so real to me. To love and help others means so much now because so many gave love to us.
So when I cried out, "Not now," those many days ago, the Lord must have thought to himself, 'Yes sweetheart, this is a good time to grow.'
Like Jennie, I feel the lessons of real subsance have a cost attached, but it's also clear they're worth the price.
“Just because we were willing didn’t
mean it was easy. I still wanted God
to be more clear, so we could be
more sure. I asked a friend who had adopted if they were 100 percent
sure when they adopted their two
kids from Rwanda. I expected her
to say yes; instead she laughed out
loud, hard. She said, “Of course we
weren’t sure. At some point you just
jump, doubting, all the way down.”
I don’t ride big roller coasters. But if I did, I could imagine it would be exciting! I’d be giddy with anticipation as the shrill choruses of excitement trail off the coaster as it blows by. At every drop and tower that sound of excitement builds: Come on! Join in!
When the ride’s over and the coaster rolls into place, satisified riders wobble off still roaring with laughter and tears. Some have bright red faces ~ others bright white. It must have been SO much fun. I get in. Check out the bar ~ grab hold! But what happens when that first cog grabs and we take a heart-stopping jerk forward? A bold thought announces itself. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
Doubt has now crept in as your focus. Why do we doubt in those moments when we should be the most assured? It's all about FOCUS.
You ride a rollercoaster believing you are going to have fun. Maybe you're a novice, but you've watched others and you KNOW this is going to be great. Yet, in that first second, when the coaster lurches forward, you lose that "FUN focus." It's as if you realized that just because something's fun it may not necessarily be a good idea. (maybe that's never happened to you but I'm experienced at it) There are over 20 Bible verses that specifically mention focusing on God. Here's one:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
You want straight paths. A straight path is the way recommended by the Lord. Whatever He may see in what's to come, the straight path will be your best choice.
The above verse can be summed up like this:
1. Trust in the Lord completely.
2. Throw away MY evaluation of circumstances.
3. Remember He is God and I AM NOT.
4. The result is RIGHT FOCUS (which is Him) producing STRAIGHT PATHS!
If we are able to remember that whatever brings the fear once we have followed directions from God, it is ALL under his review. He knew it was there when he asked us to step out. He knew it was going to become an issue, and he also knew that we were ready to trust and FOCUS on him.
Congratulations when testing has brought you to a time when focus becomes an issue. You were ready to say, "I trust in the Lord with all my heart..." My focus is there!
"Today, like many other days, I have forgotten. I have forgotten my glimpses of God, the moments
when I actualy taste and see him for a smidge of who he is, and the moments I would do anything."
I have God images tucked away. What are those? Those are moments when he visibly pokes his head into my world ~ like the one I mentioned last week. I treasure
those memories of God peeking. I bet you have such memories too. But do we think about them, re-running them in our imagination very often? Why doesn't something so precious stay in the front view of who we are?
Jennie's question is why aren't these moments with
God, the times when he breaks through into our life and explodes our heart with his presence, why aren't those moments in our forefront? Wouldn't it be easier to live
for God if they were? Wouldn't painting his glory everywhere become much more common?
I think life is tricky. And it's very hard to see beyond this world and focus, even temporarily, on the next. This place, after all, is the only reality we have ever known. That's not an excuse, but a very real truth. We don't have a personal experience of heaven, although we might imagine one. But even if you could stretch your brain out that far, how close would we get? Perhaps the best we can do, as Jenni writes, is to remember those 'smidges' of himself and to place them front and center in our walk-about day.
Here's how, I personally, could start building that habit.
I say prayers before I get out of bed in the morning because I know once I'm up other things will dominate my thinking. Like coffee! Then there's doggies to care for. News. Plans for the day. A lot of other things needing my attention. If I take those first moments, when it's quiet and calm, to remember God peeking into my life, and how that felt, I believe that will eventually make a difference in how visible he is to me...
"Until we believe in the reality of a
spiritual war where spiritual beings exist and a spiritual plan is being acomplished, we won't need an invisible Spirit's help. This is ridiculous ... unless it is all real."
Why do we have so much trouble remembering that our life is lived out on a battlefield? Scripture tells us:
"For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)
"... not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers ..." Sounds ominous, doesn't it? So even though these powers are not flesh and blood, they are real.
In this week's chapter Jenni is talking about the movement of the Holy Spirit in their congregation ~ calling him the 'invisible' Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also part of the realm we never see and we need him to win these battles! He is our guide. Our point man. Our rallying-cry! He is part of the invisible forces of God.
Another one of God's forces is angels ~ who are occasionally visible. Scripture tells us, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13.2) That verse was highly significant to me many years ago when I cared for my mother who suffered with Alzheimer's.
I had taken her out for a checkup, which was more than it seemed since she had become so unpredictable that opening the door of a moving car might be something she would do. That morning had been particularly difficult trying to convince her she must see the doctor again. It was an emotional roller-coaster. I had been giving care, 24/7, for a year and a half. I was so tired.
Our truck was nearly too high for her and getting her in and out was scary since she was deaf and that made giving her direction difficult. After another disappointing assessment from the doctor, along with the exhaustion, I was nearly in tears. While trying once again to get her back into the truck I heard a voice coming from the car beside us. I didn't clearly hear what was spoken, so I turned (and likely with an air of exasperation) I asked, "What!"
There in the car sat an older lady with the window down. Evidently, I thought, she was watching the show. Then she spoke gently, asking, "Is that your mother?" "Yes," I replied, wondering why are we having this conversation now? Then she spoke the words that turned my heart around. "You must love her very much."
In the confusion of the moment I turned to help mom ~ but in my head I kept hearing, You must love her very much. I realized she didn't say that because she had seen even one ounce of calm and composure from me ~ no tidbit of patient affection. She was addressing the suffering in my heart. It was almost as if she understood the choice I had made, the choice to care, and suffer with my mom. When I turned to ask who she was, her car was gone.
Later that day I realized she was not an ordinary woman. She was an angel. I sincerely believed, and do to this day, that God's force, in the form of this tiny old woman, had been sent to intervene in my life. To help me see again what hope was, even a little sliver of it. God had sent an angel to encourage me with a message that only he could have known I needed.
Why do I bring this story up now? Because in every moment of everyday God is aware of YOU. He is aware of your joys. Your sufferings. Your hopes. Your angers. And your heart. And to the extent that you are willing to see, you may find his intervention, his FORCE, boldly alive in your life.
Our life is lived out on a battlefield where we daily engage with the forces of evil. But DON'T EVER FORGET that God is greater! He is, and was, and will be EVERYTHING you need. Amen?
"Somewhere in my life I picked up the idea that
if things did not feel right or fall perfectly
into place, God was not in them. ... For instance,
if God was calling you to Africa, then he would have a buyer for your house in two weeks; and
if not, then he likely isn't in it." [Pg 107]
There was a time when I too believed that if something
went well then God was in it. It was a kind of barometer
gauging his leading in my life. If God had a job for me, wanted me to get involved in something, or even presented a challenge, I believed that if, IF, he was in it everything would fall into place. But if things went sideways it was time to bail.
I have to laugh now because how ironic would that be? Would God give me an experience, an assignment or challenge and take all the character-building elements out of it? Isn't that like the ballerina on this tightrope? Does it look like she's going to fall? Does there appear to be any challenge for her as she walks on tippy-toes? It seems like she's risking nothing ~ like she's got it all handled ~ and then some.
Am I saying when God asks that it is always unpleasant or contains risk? I don't know? What do you think? Has God ever asked you to do something, to put yourself out there ~~ way out there? Did that all go wonderful? Was it risky? Has God given you a challenge? Did it end up costing you anything? Has he given you wisdom without expecting you to use it? And are you looking forward to the next tough patch that results in earning more wisdom (because the last time was so much fun)?
We know that God has a distinct purpose in all life experiences, and that they involve risk and growth. The following testifies to this.
"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, ... And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint..." Romans 5.1, 3-5a [emphasis mine]
So we are here to testify about our faith. When does that testimony matter? When we're at peace and all is going well? NO. When things stink! That testimony gives encouragement, inspiration and truth about faith to observers. But is there anything in it for us who suffer? Yes. We develop deeper character through those elements of faith which we hang onto for dear life! It's all a win ~ win!
So when I say now that it's funny to think that God would only be in something if it all went well, I give you the above as to why He is in those things that often go south.
Then the reasonable question becomes: How do I know if God wants me to do something or not? Well, now we're back to last week's post and the topic of RELATIONSHIP. 'Cause without good ears and a willing, flexible, obedient heart, YOU WON'T KNOW. So draw near, pull in close, hang on for dear life, and follow Him ~ follow what you hear in your heart.
Most of my life I was looking for God to lead me loud and clear as he had for Mary with the angel. I had listened to sermons and read books about how to know the will of God. ..." [Pg 105]
Can hearing from God feel like work? When your energy levels are low and free-time is short ~ your to-do list is backing up leaving you scrambling, does finding his comfort feel like work? What can we do to help?
When I ask women to define 'prayer' most of the answers are similar. They say that prayer is a request to God for intervention of some kind. And it's true that we too associate that immediate need with prayer. But prayer is also hearing from God. Prayer is sitting silently with God. Prayer is praising God when his glorious creation blows your mind once again. Prayer is quiet when all you have are tears because he feels so real, and so close. Prayer is an argument angrily litigated before the Creator of all things who listens with patient silence ... waiting for you to see in yourself what he already desires to heal.
Scripture encourages us to be prayerful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17), but this scripture means more than just asking for help. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That admonition directs us to involve ourselves in something much larger than just asking for help. This verse is about relationship.
Any growing relationship takes work, it takes time, it takes commitment. Prayer is no different from any relationship we desire to keep alive and well. Does God show up when we need him? Absolutely. You all have likely experienced that. But there is a treasure-trove of love and grace (RELATIONSHIP) waiting to envelop you when you regularly find those minutes for him ~ because as the omnipotent God, he does not need anything from you, but instead, YOU are the key beneficiary of that added depth of Divine love and KNOWING.
Anything by Jenni Allen Wk 10: Big God Pages 91 - 97 Blog 10: Little-One Faith PLEASE SEE YOUR THANKSGIVING PRAYER BELOW THIS WEEKS POST
"He wants us, like children, to keep an
unreserved faith in Him, simply because
He is God." [Pg 95]
One of my greatest joys is spending time with
my grandchildren. Unless you're a grandparent it's hard to explain how that relationship can become so special. Grandbabies just have the ability to turn your heart into mush ~ instantly. They bring back memories of the little one you nurtured so long ago. That's where grandbabies come in.
Once a week our littlest grandchildren spend time with me and we have a movie night. Our choice that night was the movie, The Crippled Lamb. It's an animated feature created from a story by Max Lucado about a lamb who was born with a crippled leg. The lamb's deformity left him angry at God. He couldn't understand why God would let him be an object of scorn and teasing? Did God care about his suffering?
As we watched I wondered: were our little ones able to process the story well enough to see the truth the crippled lamb had not yet seen? Did they believe Jesus was still good? Or did the movie leave them wondering why people have to suffer? After all, God could fix anything, right?
At some point in life, if you haven't experienced it yet, you too will wonder why God allows suffering. It’s a question most Christians eventually ask. Sometime I will tell you about MY questions and the shouting-at I gave the Lord months after my mom died. But for now it's enough to say that everybody, every one of us, at some point, wonders WHY?
As the movie came to a conclusion and we see a purpose in the lambs defect, my precious little one (the one I call Sweetness) spoke. She sat forward and looked at me and said, "I love Jesus." She was seeing God with compassionate eyes. She saw good in God even though the lamb did suffer. I questioned my old heart. Has it become dull?
What's my point? Children get it right. They don't get confused by all the stuff adults throw into the mix when considering life. They get it right. They know we live. They know we suffer sometimes. And they know that God always, ALWAYS, loves them no matter what happens in their life.
I need to work on renewing my heart ~ growing it into a fresh heart that lives by 'little-one faith.' How 'bout you?
My husband and I have a unique experience this Thanksgiving. It's our first empty-nester holiday. Completely and solemnly ~ it's just us...
The holidays can be such a blessing. But they can also be challenging when we're without one, some, or all our family. But, the blanks that are so big when a presence is missing we can readily fill-in with our heart. For example, I can imagine our son's smile even though his face cannot be seen in this picture.
If you are like me missing a loved one this holiday, due to loss, or distance, circumstances (or perhaps even conflict) I offer this prayer for us.
Our inspiration is 1 Corinthians 13.12 "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."
Father, Lover of our life and Giver of hope, give us all we need this day for the sadness separation can bring. Give us the knowledge that all things here do not come with complete understanding and that in these days there is sorrow, there is strife, there is even missing.
Yet, today as we remember all we are grateful for, may the memory of those who have gone ahead, or who are separated by time and distance, be more than just a dim image in our heart. May they be the inspiration, the evidence of your love and your constancy.
On this, our day to be most thankful, I remember You Lord and all You have given me, including those precious souls I so dearly love. Whether near or far Lord, I still love them, and I still own the memories they have left in my heart. No matter how dim those images might seem right now, one day all will be BRIGHT, one day we will all be together again.
Thank you, Father, thank you for loving me and for giving me those I can love. Amen.
"I knew that when the breath of God had dripped off of me, I was not going back. I sensed in my gut that it wasn't an encounter that would shape my life: it was the encounter with God that would define my life." [Pg 84]
We've entered the second half of our
book, Anything. In this section we have an intimate view of a heart living full-out for God. Jenni's life, and everything in it, is focused on Him. She's a remarkable example, but how does that example look in our life?
When you think of a life of submission what do you envision? Should EVERYTHING you do revolve around Christian service? Do you think it's possible to have a normal life with work, household chores, children, volunteering, sports, etc. and yet live full-out for God? What counts in our life when trying to be that ultimate testimony for Christ?
In Matthew 5:14-16 we read Christ's words, "You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."
This passage is about character. Who you are in Christ. It's the truth that living for Christ in even the smallest and most ordinary ways, through all patterns of life ~ gives honor and glory to God. His testimony being visible in our life is a real form of disciple-making. When we represent God's principles people see how God's truth functions in real and tangible ways. Our actions, so much more than our words, testify to His love, our desire to honor Him, and HIS TRANSFORMATIVE POWER in the human heart.
Christ said, '...so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.' It is this life, a life where all the tiny corners are FILLED with God's love and ways that glorifies God. That condition in our heart produces a desire to give all. So when the offer comes to submit, perhaps turning away from our own dreams, we can answer a resounding, "You bet!"
"I want to get to heaven out of breath, having willingly done anything that you--God of the universe--ask . . . anything."
It doesn't seem possible that events which precipitated my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis happened nearly 13 years ago. It seems like yesterday, but of course, it wasn't.
As I mentioned last week, there are moments
we tuck away which seem immune from the ravages of time. They remain vivid, as we experienced them, in all their glory ~ or agony.
Thirteen years ago I had begun Bible college and had re-entered the work force to pay for that schooling. Our youngest son was doing well in school and my husband liked his job. It was a time when our family couldn't have wanted more, then the call came.
In the days and weeks following that call the preparations to take on my mom's care ramped up. Work on her small home on our property was at full speed. And even though surrounding events had some order and path, the more time I spent with my mom the larger her deficits seemed. I finally made the difficult decision to quit my job. Although it would make Bible college impossible, I couldn't deny that she was unable to function well, but I believed that God would keep his promises ~ even though none of it looked possible anymore.
Months later, when what was still ahead of me appeared larger than anything I could do, I walked around what would become mom's house. I prayed, I cried, I tried to understand. I had quit my job. I was dropping out of Bible college at the break. And my mom, she was dying of a terrible disease that I couldn't stop. My mind felt numb, my feet like weights. I looked down trying to will them to move, but they were frozen. Then on the sod under my feet, I saw an image of a road and the white centerline. Without a word, without questions, I understood I was in the center of God's plan. I knew that I was doing what pleased Him even though it had cost my dreams.
Did my mom die? Yes. Did I have to quit Bible College. Yes. Did I learn lessons about life and death that are irreplaceable? Absolutely. So, it has been 13 years already. But those years have been filled with healing, growth, bible college, seminary, writing, prayer ~ and hope. I had said yes when it was really tough, but His will was the best thing I could have chosen.
Have you made a difficult decision that put you in the middle of God's road?
Have you given up something precious to do what you believed He wanted you to do?
What did you learn from that sacrifice?
"Not that long ago, I was eight years old."
Eight-years-old was a long time ago for me.
But I have some special memories from that
era that seem timeless in my heart.
Do you have childhood memories that never
seem to age? They are as real today as the day
you tucked them away? Do you pull them out occasionally to give a look or re-live a feeling? If you do, then you are experiencing treasuring.
Treasuring happens when we give a memory a special space in our heart. We honor it. We learn from it and may even let it shape our life. That treasure becomes precious not only for the memory it represents, but also because it becomes a tool God uses to help us grow.
Here's an example from my life of how God uses that treasure. A recent medical concern brought me under the prayer covering of some ladies from our church. My concerns were so large, so scary, I just wasn't sure how to let God have it ~ and it showed. But when they gathered around me, when I was saturated with their passionate cries to God, calls for Him to release His power and grace ~ then the glory of God overtook me. He was visible in that moment, walking among us, touching us all. I have tucked that moment away because that experience of His power and presence will, in the years to come, remind me of God's power and love. That is what treasuring is all about.
Is Christ our greatest treasure?
Have you experienced an event so special, or difficult, that it became a treasure?
Has God used that treasuring to change your life?
“You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference.” [Pg 59]
This is a child’s wish list, and if these things came about, well, they would be awesome and exactly what
this little one had wished for.
As adults we know in life there is also a list called:
My Not-Wished-For List.
I remember when I used to make wish lists as a little girl.
I had a list for what I wanted to be when I grew up. A list for what I would like to look like (noting that any shape would be good after having none for so long).
Well, I didn't get many of those wishes when I was little.
Wish lists today are more complicated. Although shorter, they're complex in their desires and reasonings. They revolve around things like joy and health, nearness to my family and time ~ time here to watch the littlest ones in our family grow up.
Today I don’t go around wishing bad things for myself, however, being a student of life and spirituality I have found that many things I didn’t wish for in my life (which I TOTALLY GOT) have in fact, turned out to be some of the best things that ever happened to me. Go figure.
Jenni writes, "You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference." Just like my lists as a little girl those things I think I can't live without today may NOT end up being the very best for me. Are we supposed to be happy about the not-wished-for things that God allows?
Jenni sums it up: It's not about the 'good' or the 'bad' things in our life, it's about being so in love with God, so submitted that 'anything' God wants for us is on our wish list. At the same time God gives us courage, and wisdom, and endurance, and hope showing us just how much we can be when we set Him first.
Do you have a Not-Wished-For list? What would be on it? What things on that list would you now willingly admit were for your good?
"...He wants us to press through our doubts [about heaven] so we can see the other eternal story going on, of which we are actually a crucial part. ... It is going on now--angels and God and heaven and us--and I wish that would become our normal." [Pg 48]
In this chapter Jenni is talking about coming to an awareness of the unseen reality that exists along side the one we see ~ to give it significant space in our life.
When my mother (who suffered with Alzheimer's) was in her last year of life she became increasingly separated from me and this life. I tried to hold her
in my world. I would think to myself,"If she would just listen to me she would see..."
But that wasn't true. She no longer saw this world, or her life, as she once had. Her context had shifted and previous family roles were gone. ALL she saw was what was ahead.
I read about the dying process around the time of her death. What I found repeated in all these books was that once a person accepts death, they have to let go of this life.
My point is not that we have to be facing a terminal illness to see into the spiritual realm, and the future we are promised. My point is that when we are willing to let go of what WE see as our life, and it's purpose, along with those things that we hold dear ~ God can re-structure our focus ~ showing us more than we could ever see before.
My mother saw something perhaps like the picture above. Heaven had been here all the time. She saw and talked about that. When we do, our whole life will change.
"As he did with every believer, he gave me something to make him bigger. ... " [Pg 39]
I love this: "... he gave me something to make him bigger." How awesome is that? I have something, YOU have something that can make God bigger for someone else. That's so God.
For the longest time I tried to think of things I could do that would make a big difference for God. I thought I had nothing to give because I thought it had to be something special.
When I was older I was exposed to people who were just crazy-in-love with God. Their love, their over-the-top love for God helped me see what life-changing faith looked like. I began to realize that something special might not be doing something big, it might be something totally different.
Then there were the books I began reading, books written because of love, that spoke to my heart revealing new God-truths I hadn't seen before. There were songs, sung because of love, on Christian radio that would pierce a new area of my heart. I can't leave out the lessons of simple love, given because of love, from my friends who cradled me when my mom was dying of Alzheimers. They loved me, prayed for me and quietly held me when I just needed to cry.
I finally realized what something special really was. The something special that he gave me and you is just BEING love to others because our love for Him is so great. From that immense, special love everything else grows.
So my take-away this week, "...he gave me something to make him bigger" helps me remember that sharing the love of Christ, in whatever way God has given, is that something special we can all give.
Has someone shared something special with you?
Have you given that something special to another?
"When I curl up on my sofa with God and his Word, that feeling that makes me want to bolt should be the feeling that keeps me there with him. It's the weight of my sin pushing me down from the high and lofty places where my pride would rather keep me... " [Pg 30]
I love this passage! Have you had the feeling Jenni is talking about? Have you felt that desperate desire to run and hide from God. You know he knows what you did or said? Your heart is so heavy, the guilt almost unbearable.
I was way past thirty when I was finally saw the effect guilt had. God showed me that His grace applied to me ~ and that guilt had separated me from Him. Being overwhelmed by guilt had led me to lose sight of God and his grace. That's called condemnation. Condemnation says: You can't make up for your mistakes. It yells in our head: You’re guilty! God can’t love you! There's no way to move forward after what you’ve done. But that's a lie! Christ died for my sins! And I was worthy of God's grace and forgiveness!
Conviction is what God wanted me to feel because conviction is a good thing... (although it’s not always easy). Conviction is an alert. It’s a flagger on the highway telling you there’s construction ahead. Slow down. Pay attention. You’re coming up on a work zone with an opportunity to grow. Conviction brings awareness of a sin and tells you 'hey, we've got a problem we need to fix,' and this is the place GOD ALWAYS WANTS TO START because until the guilt beat-you-up stops, you can't see the true problem that caused the sin.
They are two different words with two hugely different purposes. Condemnation separates. Conviction empowers and brings healing.
Which one do you choose? Accept grace. Let guilt go.
How did you feel about this week's reading? Have you experienced a similar moment?
"… I reached out leisurely and affectionately to grab my son’s hand. I wanted to walk with him. He pulled his hand back … it was no longer cool to need Mom… I knelt down in the center of the walkway on the River Walk. I grabbed both his hands and simply said, "Will you hold my hand just because I love you, just because I am your mom?" [page 19]
Have you found yourself in this situation? Your child is growing up and out-growing you? They want to do it their way and interpret our help as interference. But as parents, our actions only reflect the understanding that our child's life experiences have not yet adequately prepared them to choose in every situation.
I remember as a 30-something my parents trying to help guide me in dealing with our children’s ‘teen’ issues. Their attempts made me mad. I was annoyed that they thought I didn't know the issues that were really at play. And I didn't want to listen.
This reaction can also apply to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. His influence guiding our habits and/or our traits can sometimes feel like interference. We want to do what we want. We want to respond with what feels fair...
Jenni also writes, "I had to redefine my hand for him. What seemed to be a hand that signaled discipline and failure was about something different; it was about a relationship." When our Father's love feels like discipline, we too have just yanked our hand away. But our Father is trying to maintain relationship, keep us safe, knowing our experiences have not adequately prepared us to choose in every situation...
I can't think of any event in my life when God intended harm ~ or when His guiding was even remotely questionable. That’s important because it’s easier to give up control and hang onto That hand, when I stop and remember His plans are not only for my good ~ but also for my success and JOY!
Romans 8:28 reads: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
How did you feel about this week's reading? What was inspiring?
"In one moment I was free and safe forever. God moves. God saves. In that moment God flipped something dead to life. All the Christmases I sang around wreaths holding candles, all the stories and lessons snapped
to life because they only make sense
in the light of this person." [Page 11]
You may have a similar conversion story. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, God did something unique and totally amazing in your life. He turned your world upside down, or maybe we should say, right side up.
Spiritual things that never made sense before now are ringing with truth in your heart. Faith traditions or church services (that were previously boring) now make you glow hot inside! In fact, you want more. You want to sing. You want to tell everyone how much different you feel. You realize now in this precious moment ~ HOW MUCH YOU ARE LOVED.
In our world today so many things call out for our time and attention. And for some of us, those distractions have made us feel like we're walking alone ~ buried in the crazy rush of life's necessities and never-ending list of things to do. Lifes feelings can become unreal. Faith and confidence in God that was once written in the heart now feeling useless, brittle and EMPTY ~ ready to be thrown away ~ like recycled plastic.
But our God is a great God ~ His love continually giving us a fresh start, a new story. A story that's alive. God abiding in our heart again. Stop and listen. You will hear your heart beating again with His LOVE and LIFE and HOPE.
Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God
and My Soul
"We are all chasing something. Our hearts were made to run hard and fast after things that move us. But as a generation we are all beginning to stir and wake up, identifying that these words don't satisfy for long, especially when compared to God. If God is real, and we are going to live with Him forever, shouldn't He be everything? Anything is a prayer of surrender that will spark something. A prayer that will move us to stop chasing things that just make us feel happy and start living a life that matters. A life that is...Surrendered. Reckless. Courageous. If we truly know a God worth giving anything for, everything changes." ~ANYTHING
September 22, 2016, we will begin our second book, Anything, by Jennie Allen. It's a marvelous book that's easy to read. It's relatable. And inspiring! The chapters are short [generally 10 pages or less] and so the weekly reading is realistic and doable.
"This book was awarded The Christian Book Award®. This award program recognizes the highest quality in Christian books and Bibles and is among the oldest and most prestigious awards program in the religious publishing industry."
The hard copy can be picked up in the SACC office or at the Front Desk on Sunday. Cost: $10.00 [There are also electronic and audio versions available online.]
We hope you will join us next Thursday, September 22, when we begin Anything.