"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moving Day


Yesterday we helped our youngest son move into his own apartment--the first time for him not to be living under either our roof, a college dormitory, or in a room rented from a friend.  It was a momentous day!  I found this a fitting analogy of what this "Easter" weekend is all about--moving from one abode to another.

It began on Friday when Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the son of God.  In bearing witness to who He was and subjecting Himself to an earthly death because of it, he paid for our sin of "missing the mark".  He stood up and claimed what so many of us refuse to do--that we are of God.  At the source of all our sin (our missing the mark) is the fact that we disassociated ourselves from God and tried to make a go of it alone.

Saturday is all about the move.  For us it's leaving our sense of being the one in control and surrendering it to God.

Sunday is Resurrection Day--the day we wake up to being Alive in Christ.  The terminology used is "born again" because while we were born into earthly existence on the day we celebrate as our birthday, our spirit needs to be reborn into God's kingdom where we stand up and acknowledge who we belong to--really.



This morning I saw a fox run past my bedroom window...can you see it...the reddish blotch just to the right of the tree.  It's interesting to me that the caution tape is in the photo.  It's there because we're having a company coming next week to clear out all the dead trees in our woods and the tape is to show them they're not to clear anything on this side of it.  Luke 13:31-32 says, 

31At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 

The caution tape is a good reminder for those who will conclude this church Lenten season of reflection and renewal today and then not revisit it until next year.  They'll forget that Jesus reached his goal--Satan no longer has a hold on them and they are healed!  The warning is that we can too easily forget this so we must be diligent in remembering.  We are not in danger of losing it, but rather in forgetting it and acting then as if it never happened--our new birth....our move from our old life to our new life.  

In addition, the caution tape and the fact that the fox is on this side of the tape is a reminder of how we might try to keep God out of certain parts of our lives.  Instead, let us remember today and always, that we are not alone--that Christ is in us, and all of us belongs to Him.

Most of all, however, the caution tape is a reminder to those who have yet to believe.  Caution means "to take heed".  God gives us plenty of warnings to take precautions against eternal death.  He has provided the way to prevent eternal death, if we will just believe and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Father, thank you for never letting me go even when I could not feel you there.  I believe.  Help my unbelief.  

Link to scripture:  Mark 9:24

Take action: 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Listening

"The placeholder we call listening is merely the eyehole to the kaleidoscope...." --Mark Nepo, "Seven Thousand Ways to Listen"


I've just started reading Mark Nepo's new book--the one the above quote comes from.  His title was inspired by the fact that there are at least 7,000 known languages in use on this planet.  There are, metaphorically he reasoned, 7,000 ways to listen. 

I love the kaleidoscope imagery he used to show that listening opens up a whole new world to each one of us and as Nepo says,  "[It] stitches the world together."  

I don't think we give listening it's rightful importance.  I venture to say we use it, for the most part, to serve ourselves.  We listen when we want to learn something.  We listen when we want to be entertained.  But how often do we listen in order to connect?  In order to let the other person know we think they and what they have to say is important?  I'll be the first to admit that when someone is speaking to me I often will be thinking about what I plan to say as soon as they finish.  That's because I rarely get to speak in my talkative family and am eager to have my say as soon as I can.....but that's no excuse for not really listening to the other person.  I'm trying to do better because I know how much it means to me when I feel "heard".  

Throughout scripture God advises us to listen.  In fact, He merely whispers to Elijah.  That is a parenting technique I remember reading about....if you want to break the escalation of voices in the midst of a face-to-face disagreement, whisper.  It'll capture their attention and cause them to stop talking as they attempt to hear what you are saying.

Has God been whispering to you?  Have you been listening for His voice?  

Father, I want to be a better listener in order to connect with others.  Just like a kaleidoscope allows one to see things not as they usually appear, listening will enable me to "hear" things not being said, so that I might really connect with them.

Link to scripture:  1 Kings 19:12

Take action:  Be a Good Listener

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hide 'n Seek

by James Charles
Do you remember playing the game Hide and Go Seek?  I loved it as a child.  It could be played indoors on rainy days or out of doors, which was the most fun.  It was challenging and exciting.  The one chosen as "it" had to cover their eyes....


....while everyone else ran off to hide.  If you were hiding, the anticipation of being found was both nerve wracking and exciting.  The challenge of being well hidden was offset by the desire to be found so you could be "it" next.  If you were "it" the challenge was in locating your prey quickly because it meant you were good at finding, unless, of course, the findee was just poor at hiding.  All in all, it was an afternoon of good fun.

Now, as adults, however, it's not such a good skill--the hiding part, that is.  In today's Our Daily Bread devotional David McCasland notes that "When we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear."  This seemed like one of those "blanket" statements that couldn't possibly be true in every circumstance until I began thinking about all the scriptures, such as Isaiah 41:10 that begin "Fear not, for I am with you." It's only when we hide from God that we should have reason to fear because it's then we are truly bereft.  

There are plenty of scriptures, too, that tell us good things will happen if we will seek God, such as Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  When we come out of hiding and become "it", the one who is seeking, what we will find, if it is God we seek, is everything we need.

Perhaps we should grow up and stop playing the game of Hide 'n Seek with God.  Instead, the new game should just be Seek 'n Find.  

Father, You promise us that if we will seek You, You shall be found.  That is a far more exciting endeavor than my childhood game of Hide 'n Seek.  

Link to scripture:  Jeremiah 29:13

Take action:  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Letting Go


Mark Nepo uses the example of a monkey trap to illustrate how much more can happen if we go through life with our hands open.  A monkey trap is made by punching a hole in a coconut just large enough for a monkey to put its hand into, then placing a handful of rice inside so that when the monkey tries to remove its now fisted hand clutching the rice he can't.  His only escape is to open his hand and let the rice go.

Nepo says hearing this finally helped him to understand "the tense ritual of rejection that exists between my mother and me.  Like any child, I've always wanted her love and approval, but suddenly I realized that this has been my rice--the more it has not come, the tighter my grip.  My hunger for her love has been master of my reach, even in other relationships.  I have been a caught monkey, unwilling to let go."

He concludes, "The truth is that food is everywhere.  Though the stubborn monkey believes in its moment of hunger that there is no other food, it only has to let go for its life to unfold.  Our journey to love is no different.....For love is everywhere."

This is why I chose the picture of the monkey embracing the kitten, an unusual source of love for a monkey.  Once we realize that we're trying to limit our need for love by what WE think will satisfy it and instead open our hearts to the love that surrounds us, we will no longer be trapped by our appetites.  Instead we'll be open to the love that God provides in ways we'd otherwise miss. 

Is there something you need to let go of? 

Father, open my eyes, my hands, my heart to what You want to give me.  

Link to scripture:  Philippians 4:19

Take action:  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Envy

"Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own." --Alan Cohen

Cohen goes on to say, "Jealousy is really a disguised attack on oneself."  

I have never considered myself the jealous type.  I would always be happy for the other person when they were able to have a nicer "whatever" than I had.    Cohen says we should see the person you're envious of as "a harbinger of good for yourself."  He says they are showing us that if they can have something that good, so can we.  
Me - Age 8
I remember in third grade, when I was eight, wishing I could give a party for the whole class like Sonja did for Halloween that year, so I asked my mother if I could have an Easter party.  She agreed to a few friends, but not the whole class.  I remember feeling very pleased with how it turned out.  But, I also remember that Sonja got the lead of Cinderella in the school play that year.  I didn't do too badly because I was chosen as one of the girls who would attend the Ball.....until my mother became ill and couldn't make my costume which meant I had to be one of the serving girls, instead, and wear an apron.  Perhaps that WAS jealousy I felt.  And then for our social studies project her sugar cube igloo won first prize while my Sahara desert tent made from my Dad's old flannel pajama material was rather simple and plain and took no prize.  I KNOW that was jealousy I felt.  I remember thinking bad thoughts about her and may have even complained that she had to have had help from her mother to build it. 

I can see how jealousy is dependent on what you think of yourself.  Concerning the party, I was able to give my own party, and even though it wasn't on the same scale, I'd planned it myself and with my mother's help executed it to my 8-year-old self's satisfaction and felt rather good about it.  But when I wasn't able to wear a pretty costume in the play or make a fancy-looking project, I felt less of myself and therefore was envious of Sonja's success.  

So, it would seem feelings of envy can be a good thing if we use it for good.  It can either act as a catalyst to get us moving in the direction of making that same thing happen in our lives--not because the other person has it, but because it's worth having in its own right.   Or, it can show us where we need to work on our self-worth.  Self acceptance is a large part of that, realizing we do have limitations.  Not everyone is gifted with the same abilities.

If, however, we stew in the jealousy and allow it to become resentment it becomes harmful--not only to ourselves, but to our relationships.

Cohen says a good way to think of envy (N.V.) is as  New Vision.  He says the fact that I can recognize the good others have indicates I'm able to perceive good for myself which is the first step in obtaining it....IF I can reframe my envy as a sign of what I can and will have.  Here is my 8-year-old self "reframed"....rather fancy, if I do say so myself.

Father, above all else I want a content heart, but thank you for showing me that desiring more is not always a bad thing if it helps me to grow or enables me to help others.

Link to scripture:  Philippians 4:8

Take action:  Reframing Thoughts