Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trusting My Father

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. —Matthew 6:33

Do I do this? Truly seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first? Really first? Above all other concerns in my life? Do I think about it and strive for it more than doing my job well, taking care of my house, worrying about finances, concerns about our old car, the house needing painting, getting new clothes, old wounds, what others think of me, my children, what I'm going to cook for dinner.....? Paying the bills when they come? Getting out of debt? Is the kingdom of God and His righteousness my FIRST concern?

"The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God but how we are going to take care of ourselves to live. Jesus reversed the order by telling us to get the right relationship with God first, maintaining it as the primary concern of our lives, and never to place our concern on taking care of the other things of life." (Oswald Chambers)

 I don't get this right. I stumble on this one. But, you know what? I think it's getting better. The Lord just keeps pounding this one home again and again. Over and over again in my life. I need to trust Him! Not my money, not my job status, not my 403b, not my investments...nor my savings. I have come to the conclusion that the Lord never intended me to be wealthy...or financially independent. Every time we seem to be doing better with money...along comes another trial. Our car needing major work done on it. Another child going off to college. Another emergency room visit. And every time one of these trials comes along (and it seems to be often), He shows us that it's all going to be okay. We are never hungry. We have a place to live, we keep breathing.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25

We have everything that we need. I have made a resolution that I will not worry anymore about our retirement. I know he will provide for us. This does not mean we can be stupid with our money. We will still save, choose wisely what we will purchase, forgo the purchase of the yacht...I will still contribute to my 403b and Jamie will still contribute to his 401k, but we will not worry about being years behind in our retirement.

I will trust the Lord and seek Him first. I will trust Him. I will allow Him to be in the driver's seat of my life. I won't worry about what road He will take me down. I won't worry about where I will live or how I will clothe or feed myself when I get there. I will trust Him and enjoy the journey.

It is one of the most difficult, yet critical, disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into absolute harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.(Chambers)

Isn't that the truth?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Take the initiative

Add to your faith virtue... 2 Peter 1:5

Today's devotional from Oswald Chambers is about taking initiative. It is about developing habits of prayer, Bible study, and devotion. It's crazy that as usual, I am reading in a devotional the exact thing that I am hearing the Lord tell me. I am simply out of the habit of  spending regular time with him. A long time ago, hardly a day went by that I did not do a devotional. I remember filling notebook pages full of notes and thoughts on scripture. I remember writing out lists of names of people I was praying for. I am ashamed that now it is the opposite. Hardly a day goes by where I spend the time I need to with the Lord.

The enemy has been attacking me vigorously and visciously with terrible painful memories. Ones that make me angry and feel resentment. I have trouble sleeping during these times. I will go to bed and fall asleep immediately, and then around three o'clock AM or so, that awful snake will wake me up to torture me. I got to school fairly early two days ago, around 6:45, and I read a devotional book that I have on my desk. It was about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego going through the flames and how the Lord was with them. I know the Lord is with me through the flames...but I know that those three men took initiative every single day to walk closely with the Lord.  They were able to realize his present with them. I remember thinking to myself that I ought to make it a habit of doing a devotional every single morning at work...and yesterday I forgot. Today I forgot at first and then I remembered,...but was immediately distracted by an article that I needed to find for a teacher about language development in children. Later, as I was packing up for the day...I saw my lonely devotional sitting on my desk....Streams in the Desert.

"We need to steep ourselves in scripture, through prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us, reveal truth to us, expose the lies in our hearts and replace them with His Truth." (A quote from my friend Ruth's blog post for today)

Today Oswald says this:

We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves— God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him.

So true. So true...and I know it. I've known this forever and I've been ignoring it.  Now I just need to simply act upon that knowledge.

Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well. Take the initiative— stop hesitating— take the first step. Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you when He speaks, and never reconsider or change your initial decisions. (Chambers)

We have to get into the habit of carefully listening to God about everything, forming the habit of finding out what He says and heeding it. If, when a crisis comes, we instinctively turn to God, we will know that the habit has been formed in us. We have to take the initiative where we are, not where we have not yet been.(Chambers)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. ~Phillipians 2:12 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ministry of the Unnoticed

Blessed are the poor in spirit. — Matthew 5:3

The phrase we hear so often, “Decide for Christ,” is an emphasis on something Our Lord never trusted. He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to Him, a very different thing.

The thing I am blessed in is my poverty. If I know I have no strength of will, no nobility of disposition, then Jesus says — Blessed are you, because it is through this poverty that I enter His Kingdom. I cannot enter His Kingdom as a good man or woman, I can only enter it as a complete pauper. (Oswald Chambers)

Understanding my poverty...that I am nothing of myself. I have not earned the title of "Christian" or "Child of God." I cannot earn this. This is actually comforting because if I could earn it, if it were up to me and my abilities or my goodness to enter the Kingdom of God...I would surely fail. I must recognize this and understand my poverty. This poverty makes it impossible to decide for Christ, because being a Christian is really all about yielding to Him. (We are back on that "surrendering of our rights and allowing him to work" theme that the Lord keeps hammering home to me)

I know what I am, in and of myself, with decisions. I am not saying that I am a fickle person. No. Not at all. There are things that I have decided long ago. I have decided that I would not use drugs or alcohol. I have decided that I would never be unfaithful to my husband. I have decided that I would always pay my taxes. I have decided that I would never cheat or steal. I have decided that I would commit to being a part of a community of believers in a get the picture. I did decide to follow Christ when I was 14 years old. That was a decision and commitment. I don't think that is what Chambers is talking about here. I think he means that we are people. People who fail...who get side-tracked. Get busy and forget or don't bother to take the time for prayer and worship and study. We are people who disappoint others that we love because we are not perfect. If it was up to my power of consistent decision, I wouldn't make the cut.

Instead, I yield to him. It is a constant learning curve. Yielding is surrendering our trust in ourselves and our own ability to get us there and trusting instead in His ways of getting us there. I cannot control everything that happens on this earth. I cannot stop the storms from coming my way. I cannot stop the tsunami from hitting me blindside and turning my life upside down...wounding me. I cannot make others around me understand my struggles with a mood disorder. I choose to raise my children the best that I can possibly raise them, but I cannot ultimately decide for them how to live out their lives. I must yield to Christ. When it hurts, when my life is in pieces...and when everything is going great, I must yield to Him. (Sometimes the latter is actually the hardest time to yield to Him)

In yielding to Him in this way, we serve in the Kingdom of God in the best way. If we yield...we serve.

Which are the people who have influenced us most? Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were influencing us. (Chambers)

Who has influences me the most for Christ here on earth? Simply by yielding up their lives to the Lord and living for Him? A quick look at my memory: Mrs. M DeVries, Mrs. J DeVries, Mrs. M Lamberts, Mom and Dad, Mrs. Lowater, the O'Learys, J Rowell, R Chinnici, A Falke, C Lazenby, C Meitner, W Connell, G Pulver, B Miller....

On that list there are only 3 men. Not that men cannot have a godly influence on me...but it shows me how important it is for women to have other women in their lives. I think most of these people would be surprised to find themselves on the list. They are ordinary people. They lived ordinary lives. None of them are famous. I cannot help but wonder if I have been of any influence to anyone. I know that this devotional discourages us from wondering about that, but I do. Have I touched anyone? Have I made any difference?

We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.

I guess that I can atleast claim that I am commonplace, and perhaps by being so, Jesus can be at work in me and around me...and even through me.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Selling All I Have

When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. —Luke 18:23

Yesterday's devotional seemed so familiar that I went in search of the archives to see if I had looked at it another year. It turned out that I looked at today's devotional in 2012, which is very similar.

What am I going to pull out of it this year?

Has God’s Word ever come to you, pointing out an area of your life, requiring you to yield it to Him? Maybe He has pointed out certain personal qualities, desires, and interests, or possibly relationships of your heart and mind. (Chambers)

My mind. My heart. My mind works overtime quite often. It rants and raves about things I can't do anything about. Things I can't change. My heart is often disappointed when I have higher expectations in my life. I often feel like I have a right to hold on to these rants and disappointments, but the Lord has shown me that I do not have that right. I must yield it to Him.

It's really hard to yield sometimes, but you know what? It's even harder to live life not yielding it to Him.

“Sell all that you have…” (Luke 18:22). In other words, rid yourself before God of everything that might be considered a possession until you are a mere conscious human being standing before Him, and then give God that. (Chambers)

Selling all I have isn't enough. He wants me. And what does that mean? What does it truly mean to give myself fully to Him? I can't give myself fully to Him until I "sell all that I have." What do I need to sell?

  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Memories that bring regret or grief
  • Pride
  • Resentment
  • Brokenness
  • Disappointment
  • Expectations
  • My time
  • Mental health issues....and pride again
  • Secrets
That is just a quick list the Holy Spirit has just shown me. Each of these can be broken down. I need to be authentic and transparent. I haven't always been this.

Here's another thought that Chambers adds to the end of the devotional.

Discouragement is disillusioned self-love, and self-love may be love for my devotion to Jesus— not love for Jesus Himself.

Loving Jesus is the ultimate goal. I can't do that without selling the "junk in my house." The junk listed above. All that stuff is the fruit of self-love.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Learning to Listen...and Obey

…Jesus…said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have…and come, follow Me." But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. —Luke 18:22-23

Today's devotional, my friends is amazing. I'm thinking, what could I possibly add to that? It seems as though Chambers says it perfectly...and clearly. I can relate to it and can think of specific examples in my own life. Times when I heard Him speak to me and I didn't like what I heard. Just like the young ruler, I went away sorrowful.

Here are some gems from today's devotional.

Jesus says a tremendous amount to us that we listen to, but do not actually hear.

Our Lord never pleaded with him; He never tried to lure him— He simply spoke the strictest words that human ears have ever heard, and then left him alone.

Jesus did not go after him, but let him go. Our Lord knows perfectly well that once His word is truly heard, it will bear fruit sooner or later. What is so terrible is that some of us prevent His words from bearing fruit in our present life.

I can think of a couple of very specific times when the Lord spoke to me clearly. I didn't like what I heard Him say. I wanted what I wanted. I didn't want to do things the Lord's way...I wanted things my way instead. I made excuses for the words I heard. I told myself it was my imagination. Both times when I heard the Lord speak to me it caught me off guard and I said, "What?!? Was that you, Lord? What did you say?" I wanted more clarification. I wanted to hear it in a more comfortable way. Both times, my startled reactions were met with silence. God never has to repeat Himself. He makes Himself very clear the first time. We don't always have to understand why or how...just believe and obey.

The first time He spoke to me directly, I really didn't like it...and went and did my own thing. I did what I wanted instead. I have looked back in repentance, sorrow and regret. I paid the price for not listening, believing, or obeying. I still pay the price in sorrow and loss, just as He predicted I would. But the last line of Chambers' devotional struck me. Here it is:

One thing is certain— He will never throw our past failures back in our faces.

It is not the Lord that throws that failure into my face, but it is I. I throw my own failures back into my own face and I need to stop this! By doing this, I have not accepted the Lord's forgiveness, grace, and mercy. He's over it. He has moved on. I'm the one who is stuck with not forgiving myself.

The second specific time that I am thinking of was a time when the Lord's words brought me sorrow. I didn't want to accept them as truth. In fact, I protested and argued. I didn't believe. I didn't think I could bear what he told me would come true. For a long time it was a source of sorrow and I asked, "Why, Lord?" But slowly over time His words brought me comfort and I saw them as loving protection. They have also brought me assurance that what He says stands firm. I can firmly rest on what He tells me is so.

I am ever so grateful that He didn't just give up on me or zap me when I chose rebellion, whining, and disbelief. He is so patient. His words eventually bore fruit.

Photo by me: Adirondack Mountains.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

He Knows My Name

He calls his own…by name… —John 10:3

This is this world that has a current population of approximately 7.4 billion people, He knows not only my name, but He knows each and every one of us by name. I'm a librarian at a high school with approximately 800 students. I struggle with those names. That's one thing I wish I was better at, but 4.7 billion people?!?....not to mention the billions of people who have lived and died!

But Thomas doubted, saying, “Unless I see…I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas needed the personal touch of Jesus. When His touches will come we never know, but when they do come they are indescribably precious. “Thomas…said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” (John 20:28).

I have experienced His personal touch, on a couple of occasions. Those moments have been amazing. I haven't always appreciated the personal touches when they came to me because sometimes they came in the form of a message that I didn't want to receive. I didn't like what He said, but years later when I looked back and saw how his messages came true...I have been amazed. Other touches left me this one.

There was another time where I was touched with His power and it was actually frightening. I was 12 years old and going through some personal doubts. I was laying in bed, with my hand resting on the headboard. I said to the Lord, "If you are real, God...then touch my hand." I instantly felt a tingling in my hand that grew stronger and stronger and then flowed through my entire body. I swear that I levitated a bit off the mattress. It really was one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had. I remember crying out to Him that okay okay, I believed. I wanted the sensation to stop. It did after only a second or two. My heart was beating out of my chest. I went downstairs and wandered a bit around the house and got a drink. When I had settled down, I went back to bed. I know it sounds silly, but I always avoided resting my hand on the headboard after that. Even all the way up through high school and when I returned home as a young adult before moving out. For years I told no one and since then I have told very few people about this experience because I was sure that no one would believe me. It just seemed too incredible! How do you tell people you levitated off of a mattress?

As frightening as it was, it was truly precious. He knew my name. He heard this little 12 year old girl and cared enough to show her exactly how real He is! I admit that I was also being a little cocky and He really put me in my place!

I can name more times like this one...and this one too.

I could tell more. These experiences have come few and far between...but they show me that God sees me as an individual. He notices what is going on in my life. He cares to stop and speak to me.

He knows my name.

Photo of me by my husband. Reading at the Adirondack Reader in Inlet, NY.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Blessings Through Raindrops-The Discipline of the Lord

Because I am a bit of a night owl, I will sometimes be up past my bedtime, poking around the internet and reading. Sometimes I even pull up Oswald Chambers' Devotional. Last night I did that and posted. Then today when I pulled it up, I noticed that it was the same devotional I had done around 11:00 or so last night. That is because whoever is in charge of the blog I link to in order to get to the devotional is not a nightowl apparently and makes sure that it is updated for the following day before they go off to bed. That saying: Since I did today's devotional last night, this is yesterday's devotional that I will do today.

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. Hebrews 12:5

When the Lord disciplines you like that, let Him have His way with you. Allow Him to put you into a right-standing relationship before God.

So...I'm supposed to just sit there and take it? Yep...that's what the devotional says. That really is surrendering your rights. There's actually more to it then simpy sitting back and taking it. The scripture says that I'm not to be discouraged. I can think of another scripture that tells us to trust in Him, not to try to attach your own human understanding to your situation, and to also acknowledge Him in everything-even when life sucks (Proverbs 3:5). Everything the Lord plans for us has a purpose. I've got to keep believing that. I do believe that. In the thick of things certainly is easy to say..."Why?" Heck! Even after things settle down a bit it's still easy to say, "Why?"

I know that we will not always understand things on this side of heaven. What is the purpose of life? Is it to have everything go right all the time? We make our plans, and then everything works out and we live happily ever after? If that was the case, what would ever convince us that we really need the Lord? The things in my life have often served to convince me that I need God.

  • Mommy's best friend committing suicide. Having to shoulder that at age 5.
  • Scary outbursts of anger that my brother exhibited when I was just a little girl. His drug abuse, alcoholism and rebellion affected us all.
  • Feeling like I had to hide that from people.
  • Two policemen knocking on the front door in 1983 to tell my family that my older brother was found dead in his apartment in Dallas, TX
  • Being side-slammed by a mental illness in college and then consequently losing someone who had been my best friend.
  • Suffering for years with anxiety that was crippling. Not knowing what my problem was.
  • Getting married and then having one financial issue after another happen to us. It was like being in a choppy sea...trying to keep your head up.
  • Not being able to find a job...
  • Having someone suddenly tell you that your dad has only 3 months to live at most...and then see him die just 3 weeks later.
  • Your mother having dementia. Trying to figure out with your siblings how to care for her and keep her safe. (Thank you my big sister! I'll be forever indebted to you and your selflessness)
  • .....

Really? Is that it? That's all? I don't see a concentration camp listed here...or wrongful inprisonment! I don't think I've really had that rough of a life and I don't think this is a list of discipline from the Lord. What does that song say? Sometimes our blessings come through raindrops.

It's all part of the work being done on me.
Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24New International Version (NIV)

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

okay...bring it!

P.S. I know I have people who are reading this blog. Please comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts.