Monday, July 30, 2012

Confession 241: Drought

We are in the midst of a drought.  The earth is dry, it has not rained significantly in 62 days, the grass is dormant and crops have withered.  The trees are going from green to brown; dead leaves litter the scorched earth.  The heat is unrelenting. We pray for water.

Like our land, our souls can wither in the midst of a drought.  Our hearts become hard and brittle.  Our hope burns up, scorched in the fires that life in this broken world can bring.  Our voices, once lovely and pure and full of the goodness of God become dry and scratched from the burning of bitterness as we search for meaning, as we long for purpose, as we thirst for wholeness.  We pray for water.

A woman comes to a well alone.  The day is hot.  The sun beats down upon her, another burden she is forced to bear.  Her soul is parched.  She prays for water.

A man sits beside the well.  He is alone.  He has no bucket, no pitcher, no means of drawing any water.  The woman is cautious.  There is no one to hear her call.  There is no one who would come if she did.

The man studies her.  "Will you give me a drink?"  His eyes hold no malice.

The woman stops.  Her pulse quickens.  She does not yet trust him.  Yet she needs to draw from the well.  She does what life has taught her to do.  She takes the defensive.

The man does not leave.  Nor does he come closer.  He stays waiting by the well.  "If you knew who I was, it would be you asking me for a drink.  And I would give you water to quench your thirsting soul."

The woman studies the man.  The sun is hot, but her skin is cool.  She is afraid.  "Who are you?"

The man smiles.  It lights his face.  Hope emanates from him.  "It does not matter.  I know you.  I know your soul is parched.  This water you draw comes and goes.  But I have a water for your soul that will last forever.  Come out of the desert."

The woman is overwhelmed.  Something breaks within her.  A trickle of water begins to flow.  She looks back at the town from which she came.  Would they believe?  Could there be a river of life in this desert place?  She lays her bucket on the ground.  "Please stay.  I'm coming back."

And Jesus said, "....whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  John 4:14

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Confession 240: Wait and See

Recently, my husband and I took our oldest son to be seen by a medical specialist.  We had hoped in the course of our consultation to get some answers to some problems our son had been having.  We came in expecting a plan of action to be put into place.  Unfortunately, instead of walking away with answers, we only had more questions.  And our hoped for plan of action became a wait and see.  My husband and I left the doctor's clinic feeling angry and frustrated, confused and discouraged.  What were we supposed to do now?

As Christians, we can sometimes have a similar experience in our walk with God.  We go to God seeking answers for problems that arise in our lives and come away with more questions.  We ask God to act and are told to wait and see.  It can be frustrating, unsettling, and discouraging when we perceive that God is not showing up in our lives when we need him most.  But it is also in those times of perceived silence or indifference from God that our faith can deepen and grow.  We have to dig down deep to our spiritual roots and find the promises that God has planted within our souls.  We have to remember God's faithfulness to his people throughout the generations of time and choose to believe that even though we can't see him, we can't hear him, we can't feel him that he is there working to bring about his perfect plan for us.  We have to settle ourselves to wait and see the victory that God is bringing in his way and in his time.

The Lord reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.  
 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.  
 Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. 
Psalm 9:7-10

My husband and I went back to our GP the day after meeting with the specialist.  He was able to give us answers where the specialist couldn't.  He shared in our frustrations and developed a wait and see plan of action that we were comfortable with.  He reassured us and validated our feelings and concerns.  He took time to care for us.

How much more will God our Father care for us in all aspects of our life!  God knows what we are going through, he understands all of what we are feeling, he knows when we are scared or hurt or disappointed or confused.  And unlike our medical professionals, God is working on our problem before we realize we even have one!!   Although God may ask us to wait and see, he never stops working on our behalf.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.  
 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13-14

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Confession 239: Patience

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  1 Timothy 1:16

Patience is not a virtue I have in abundance.  I don't like waiting.  I always skim ahead about 50 pages in books I'm reading before I put them down to do something else.  I get frustrated when my children don't do things immediately after being directed to do them.  My husband and I dvr all of our favorite programs so we don't ever have to sit through commercials.  So, this verse made me smile today as I read it. 

Paul tells his adopted son Timothy that God showed him mercy so that God could have the opportunity to display divine patience.  I love that Paul recognized the fact that God would need a lot of patience in dealing with him.  Paul was, among many things, always brutally honest!!  Truth be told, however, this verse could really be applied to any and all of us.  

I don't know about you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that God requires a lot of patience in dealing with me.  I am stubborn and bull headed.  I value independence and don't often listen carefully to what God might be trying to say.  I can be willful and proud. Oftentimes, God has to smack me upside the head with his equivalent of a spiritual frying pan to get me going in the right direction.  God has showered me with his unending patience; he stands next to me and waits for me to turn to him, to listen and to follow.  

God is always there patiently waiting for each of us.  He waits for all of his children, arms open, ready to enfold them into his loving embrace.  God patiently waits upon us.  I think I would be well served to reflect some of that patience back on others today!

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confession 238: Remembrance

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

I've been thinking about this verse from Psalm today as I remember a friend from high school who, I discovered from Facebook, passed away this morning from a lengthy battle with cancer. Time can be both a blessing and a curse to us mortals.  It seems to stretch on endlessly at times and then is gone before we know it.  The wise person accepts each new day as a gift to be opened with joy and thanksgiving, not wishing for less or more.  God gives us space and time on this Earth to learn to love him, and we do that through loving others.  As Christians, we should be remembered for our love.

I've also been thinking about the current trend in our society to "dress up" our grief.  Instead of mourning at a funeral service, we hold celebrations of life.  Our loved ones do not die, they pass on or go home.  Instead of focusing on how much we will miss them, we are encouraged to be grateful for the time we had them with us.  And while I believe that there is space for all of this, I also think we need to learn and to teach our children how to say goodbye.  And saying goodbye hurts.  We need to remember that for each person we have loved and let go of, regardless of how young or old they were, there is a light that has gone out on this Earth.  

And so, today, I am remembering Tricia.  She will be always for me that laughing bright-eyed 16 year old girl with dark curls, deep brown eyes and a vivacious personality.  I know there is much more that her family and close friends will remember, and I pray that as her young son grows older there will be warm memories for him to hold onto and carry.  But for me, I will remember a teenage girl's joy and exuberance while living life to the fullest.  I like this traditional Irish blessing for saying goodbye.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confession 237: Victorious

Have you ever had the thought, "This is not supposed to be my life!"  Have you ever spent hours, weeks, months, even years working and toiling toward a dream for your life that despite your best efforts just won't materialize?  Do you ever think, "Where did I go wrong?"

God and I have been working through some of these questions over the past two years.  In giving up my full-time teaching position when my husband was appointed to another church, I never dreamed that I would have any trouble finding another position.  And yet, two years later, doors have not opened.  I have questioned myself, questioned my abilities, questioned my purpose and have struggled to develop some sort of clear concise plan for my future.  At the age of 35 I find myself asking/screaming, "What am I supposed to do with my life?"  And the answer that I come to is this.  What I'm doing now is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.  Look at this quote from author, Beth Moore:

Satan definitely wants to force us off our property and make us feel like we're getting nowhere.  But God has given us the privilege of standing in the victorious space He desires for us.  (Paul: A Journey of Faith)

 When I look at my life, I realize that God has used this time to do some good work in my soul.  He's taught me what it means to surrender, to trust, to truly depend on him.  Because I'm not teaching full-time I have had the opportunity to spend quality time with my children, to help start a community theater in our area, to write and to engage in Bible study and time with God.  It's been good, and it brings me joy.  Even though my professional life may not look the way I think it should, I can trust that God has placed me where he wants me for his victory.  And, as a child of God, his victory is mine.

Whenever you doubt yourself.  Whenever you feel you're not good enough, you're not doing enough, you're not fulfilling your potential, remember; God has placed you in a place of VICTORY!!

Now this I know:
    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand. 
Psalm 20:6

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Confession 236: A Psalm

My good friend and spiritual mentor Liz gave me a wonderful book yesterday entitled Psalms/Now by Leslie Brandt.  This book is a contemporary interpretation of the Psalms.  I immediately opened the book to my favorite Psalm, number 121.  This interpretation only heightens my love of this beautiful message.  I thought I would share it with you this Monday morning.  And, if you get a chance, go see Liz over at God in the Everyday.

Blessings and Peace,

Psalm 121
Where should I look for help in my need?
To majestic mountain peaks that probe our skies
      or to giants of industry that hem in our cities?
To satellites that circle our world
      or to computers that store up our knowledge?

The answer to my problems
     and the fulfillment of my needs
   must come from God Himself,
      from Him who created skies and mountains
        and man to dwell in their midst.

He is a great God who knows our every desire,
whose watchful eye is upon us night and day.
We can make no move without His knowledge.
His concern for His children is constant;
His love for them is eternal.

  And thus the Lord will keep you,
Shielding you from the forces of evil
as a shade tree shields you
from the rays of the blazing sun.

 He does care for you,
and He will fight with you
against the enemies of your soul.
Whether you be coming or going,
He knows the course you take,
and He will go before you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Confession 235: Quarantine

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.  He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!  Acts 28:30-31

As a parent, you try to do what is best for your children.  And yet, despite all of your good intentions, things can still go wrong.  This past Thursday my youngest was diagnosed with chickenpox.  Yes, I said CHICKENPOX!  Apparently vaccines only go so far.  The plus is that since he has been vaccinated it is a significantly milder outbreak of the virus.  The negative is that we are quarantined until the rash clears up.  Granted, as it is has been in the triple digits the past several days, we'd probably be spending a lot of time indoors anyway.  However, it wouldn't all be spent in our indoors!!

After our first full day of quarantine my husband and pox-free oldest son went to Wal-Mart to get a few more boardgames to add to our Uno and Jenga rotations.  And, I've been dvr-ing the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the old Adam West Batman show as well as the early Harry Potter movies.  But still, movies and games and blocks can only fill so much time.

I've been thinking a lot about the apostle Paul under house arrest in Rome for two years.  I can't imagine staring at the same walls for two whole weeks, let alone two years!  I'm not sure Sherwin Williams sells enough paint to make that situation fresh and exciting!!  And yet, I know there are those imprisoned throughout our world for much longer periods of time.  Some, of course, are serving time for crimes committed against others.  Yet there are many forced into prison for standing up against tyranny and oppression and for fighting for freedoms that we take for granted.  It makes our week of quarantine sound like a resort vacation!!  I find myself wondering how they can stand it.  How do they face day after day of the same walls, the same furniture, unable to step outside and feel the warmth of the sun?  How do they choose to rise each morning knowing that there will be no trip to the store or the cafe, no drive through the countryside or hike through the woods or walk along the beach?  How can they stand the isolation from the rest of the world?

For those whose hope is in the Lord, I think that Paul gives a wonderful example of how to respond in those times in our lives where we are, or feel, cut off and imprisoned from the rest of the world.  To begin, Paul had friends in lots of places.  Brothers and Sisters in Christ came from all over to fellowship with him, to pray with him, to encourage him in his imprisonment.  People need to know that they're not alone.  

Second, Paul understood that God had a plan.  He knew from the time he set out to Jerusalem several years earlier that God was sending him to Rome to preach the gospel.  He might not have expected to arrive in chains, but think of the opportunities he had to spread the gospel message!!  An enforced time of solitude can be useful in tending to the tasks God has placed before us, tasks that might, otherwise, get lost in the hustle and bustle of day to day living.

Finally, it is important to remember that God equips his people with the strength necessary to endure the tribulations they face.  No matter where we find ourselves in this life, God is there with us.  I love this passage from Joshua:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

I don't know how long our little quarantine will last, but I am praying that God will use this time to do some good work!

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Confession 234: The Mighty Oak

They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  
Isaiah 61:5

My husband recently built a beautiful doll crib for our niece's second birthday.  The first step in the process of building this crib was choosing the right wood.  While I was studying the price tags, Chris was carefully studying the quality of the wood.  The white ash, while very economical, was splintered and knotty.  The grain was uneven, there was lingering bark, and there were many obvious blemishes that could not be covered up.  The pine was better looking, but the grain was still uneven and spread apart.  It was also a softer wood than the oak right next to it.  The oak, from a craftsman's point of view, was splendid.  Fine, even grains, no knotting, no blemish, hard and strong, the oak was a piece of natural beauty that would need little in the way of a cosmetic makeover.  Although twice the price of the white ash, it was the right wood to create this crib/keepsake that our niece can keep through the years.

As I consider what it means to be a mighty oak planted for the display of the Lord's splendor, these things come to mind:

1. The oak is strong, durable, made to withstand the test of time.  Likewise, when we keep our focus on God, we have the ability to withstand all that life throws at us.  We can stand in the face of adversity because God gives us his unsurpassing strength.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

2. As we walk in the Lord, as we grow deeper into him, he is able to keep us on an even keel.  In God, we are steadfast.  We don't have to spend our lives bouncing around from one thing to the next, searching for the next best thing.  We have the best thing and God will lead us steadily onward.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

3. In God, we have little need for a cosmetic makeover.  Through Christ's sacrifice on the cross we are able to come before the Lord without blemish, our sin washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.
But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish, and free from accusation. Colossians 1:22

As a mighty oak planted for the Lord, we reflect his splendor when we remain faithful to him, when we walk in his ways, when we obey his commands and when we show his love to others.  We are Christ's keepsakes, spreading his love and teaching his commands from generation to generation.

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, July 2, 2012

Confession 233: A Picture's Worth

Here's what I take pictures of:

Here's what my boys take pictures of:

Maybe my priorities are a bit off! :-)

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2