Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Day Off

Taking a day off today! Hope you don't mind. My eyes are on new doors of opportuity. Lord, open my eyes!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Challenge Wrapped Gifts

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges
come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.

James 1:2-3 (The Message)

It wasn’t until I was in college that I heard the word, oxymoron. Besides liking the “sound” of the word, the logophile in me quickly copied it onto my brain’s hard drive. A coming together of two thoughts, two words that seem to contradict each other, in fact, may even seem to cancel each other out. Linking tests and challenges with gift is an oxymoron at its finest.

Reflecting on the various challenges that have reared up in my life over the years, I discover that it is only when looking back that I am able to see the “gift”. In the midst of it, I never saw the broad place, that the psalmist describes (Psalm 18:19), for the view of boulders, mountains and forests.

But of this I am certain; who I was then, is a dull reflection of the “me” I am now. Age has, in this respect, made me more agile. With each test I’m a little quicker to my knees. The challenges aren’t so daunting and that is saying something because, like some kind of weird obstacle course, they seem to be getting trickier, meaner and more exhausting!

Now, with resolve and clarity, I can say that I long for my faith to “show its true color.” There are no promises of the condition I’ll be in when I come out to the broad place, but my fervent prayer is that how I lived, how I conducted myself “in the thick of it” will be an arrow pointing to the One who can make all things new.

Jesus, while I can’t see the end
I know and believe that you will see me through.
Help me, to keep moving forward, and with each
step let me grow stronger and more agile.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sin Separates

When a man or woman commits any sin, the
person has broken trust with God, is guilty, and
must confess the sin.

Numbers 5:7

As a Jesus follower I have been part of a number of Christian “cultures.” I have wondered at the variety of theological doctrines that take such an important role in each of them. The tenets of the Christian faith are the same, but there exists certain doctrines that seem to be “lines in the sand” for separation and clarification, creating a Christian placement of sorts.

The common denominator, however, is sin and repentance. One year I sat in a Presbyterian sanctuary listening to Southern Baptist, Anne Graham Lotz preach that if sin is allowed to continue in one’s life, or in the life of a Christian community, and repentance is ignored, ultimately the presence of the Holy Spirit will depart. Why? Because sin separates us.

It’s not that difficult to envision. Have you ever known two people who refuse to talk to each other over a hurt or misunderstanding? If left unresolved it will carry them farther and farther away from each other.

I find confessing sin kind of difficult even though I know that it separates me from my sister or brother as well as from the embrace of the Trinity. Believing in confession of sin and practicing it, live on opposite sides of a deep canyon. Confession and repentance requires me to go down into the canyon depths in order to come up on the other side. But I don’t like the alternative - living a life separated from God.

Getting down where my sin festers is messy. But when I climb out I feel the waters of God’s forgiveness washing away all the muck.

Jesus, I confess that I have broken trust with You
by refusing to look at certain behaviors,
thoughts and attitudes that separate me from You.
I ask for Your forgiveness. Give me the comfort of Your embrace.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reading More than Notes

If…lifeless instruments, such as the flute or harp, do not give indistinct notes, how will anyone know
what is played?
I Corinthians 14:8

“We’re going to start a band!” announced my daughter one day when she was in grade school. One of them had a keyboard, another a violin, a few could sing, a small set of drums even appeared on rehearsal day at our home. An hour later everyone was gone. “What happened to rehearsal?” I inquired. “Oh, it didn’t sound very good. None of us really knew how to play the instruments.”

When I listen to my favorite music sometimes I focus on what is required to produce the notes I enjoy. My enjoyment doesn’t just happen. Before the music made its way to my iPod, there was an enormous amount of time, effort, dedication, commitment and practice.

I play the piano and sing but you’ll never hear any recordings! Long ago I stopped practicing and while I may still have the ability to sit down and play through a piece, the music isn’t distinctive.

The community of believers is full of musicians. Some have learned the beginning spiritual lessons reciting them as crisply as a “C” scale, but that’s where it stops. Others want to learn how to be a follower. Satisfied with rule keeping the music they make while clear is stilted never becoming melodic. Then there are those who want to live the Jesus way. Learning, practicing, feeling the music in their marrow, their lives become distinctive melodies that encourage others to become lifetime Music students.

Jesus, forgive me when I don’t take the time to
keep learning and practicing what it
means to be Your follower.
Help me to be a melody that draws people to You.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Garden Without Weeds

But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.
I get to the heart…I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.

Jeremiah 17:10

Once, while participating in a healing conference, the leader took us through a spiritual exercise of seeing our hearts as a garden. “What do the walls look like surrounding the garden? Are they stone, a picket fence, what condition are they in or are there walls at all?” she asked. “Now, go into the garden. What is growing? Are there weeds? Any flowers? What about weeds pretending to be flowers?”

Continuing through the exercise, she reminded us that God knew the difference between flowers and weeds. The “seeds” we had planted in our spiritual soil would ultimately reveal their identity. And, no matter how relieved we were to see that our “weed seeds” didn’t really look that bad and perhaps the reasons why they had been planted could remain hidden, God still knows weeds.

It was a painful exercise. Looking at ourselves or our believing community and allowing God to point to the weeds pretending to be flowers is an exercise in humility. But the exercise doesn’t end. In identifying what is “pretend” God says, I want to get to the root of this weed. I want to do what one does with weeds in gardens.

It hurts when God starts pulling weeds. He does whatever it takes to get at the root. Afterwards I’ve discovered that my garden is pretty bare. But with humility comes repentance. What remains will be a garden without weeds pretending to be flowers but also soil that is ready for good seed planting.

Loving God, here is my heart’s garden. No matter
how painful, pull out every weed that pretends to a flower.
Plant in me seeds that produce true beauty and reveal Your glory.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not Ordinary

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit
into it without even thinking.

Romans 12:2a

I knew a girl once who was in a friend gang and found it difficult to say “no” to anything they proposed. If you asked, “Who are you?” she would declare herself independent and free thinking, unaffected by peer pressure. But consistently her decisions were evidence to the contrary. At her core was an uncertainty about identity, consequently shape shifting to the culture was much easier--it didn’t take a lot of thought. After all, “you don’t get friends any other way!”

There’s a lot of pressure these days to be identical. The culture may tout originality but take a look around. From tattoos to handbags to expensive cars to haircuts there is more imitation and conforming than uniqueness.

Jesus followers are called to be uniquely different from the culture. That call insists that I be serious about how I will accomplish that goal. Every day I am confronted with cultural “norms” that at the outset were off center, but over time quickly became “ordinary.” Consequently, creating a distinction about what makes living the Jesus way unique, has become more and more of a challenge.

Living with a heightened awareness of one’s culture isn’t a bad practice for the Jesus follower. Daily I find myself asking questions about the impact that TV shows, magazines, advertisements or even friends have on my life, my spirit. In a culture of sameness, I pray that my life might be attractive for its originality.

Jesus, you avoided cultural traps
staying focused on Your purpose.
It was Your originality that attracted crowds.
Help me stay alert to anything
that keeps me from being an original for You.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Food for Thought

Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ. Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision. The depth and texture of Christianity ought to appeal to young people, but the unChristian notion strains life in Christ into mere mental allegiance to a religion. The truth is that when a person makes a commitment to Christ, it is just the first step into a much larger reality.

When people become Christians, we must describe appropriate expectations for them; engage them in significant, accountable relationships and fashion environments where deep life change can take place.

unChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity

by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beyond Impossible

The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

I Samuel 17:17

In the last two years my husband and I have faced some of the most trying, challenging, difficult times that we’ve experienced. A Goliath has called out his bullying, cruel taunts against my husband and myself, spreading vicious and false innuendos. This Goliath has even threatened the life of my husband. Some days it’s hard to just wake up in the morning. There seems to be no relief or help. It feels as though this is far more than being paw swiped by a lion!

It is in times like these that I have to remember the times that God has delivered me from numerous lion and bear attacks. Many ministers and their families are the recipients of attacks that others would never experience or imagine. Sometimes we feel as though we wear a bull’s eye on our backs. Lions and bears, oh my, they are the animals of discouragement!

But all these are part of building up spiritual strength. Every difficulty, every tough encounter, every conflict builds up the necessary muscle, preparing me for my present Goliath. My only assurance is David’s--the Lord delivered me from the paw of the lion and bear I pray he will also deliver me from the hand of this Goliath.

God, it’s difficult to see that “bear” and “lion” attacks
can be part of what strengthens me.
Deliver me, O God, from the hand of this Philistine!

Image - Lion Photo

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stop Telling

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in…

Psalm 121:8
Numerous times I have felt it necessary to “tell” God what he needed to do—“Be with us now.” “Be with Mary.” “Take care of my family.” “Guard and protect Pete as he travels.” My “to do” list for God is endless! I sometimes forget that God already knows what I need. Consequently I fall short in acknowledging his all-knowing character.

Listen closely to most prayers and you’ll hear the majority of Christians telling God that he needs to do something. Sometimes there’s a brief thanksgiving and then a quick dash towards the request line. And, of course the request line is always the longest. It’s almost as though God is viewed as a type of cosmic waiter, standing by patiently waiting for our orders because he has no idea what we could possibly need.

Some may argue that it’s appropriate to acknowledge our needs. But there is a distinct difference between acknowledging our needs and telling God what needs to be done. I remember once telling God that he needed to remove an enemy from my life…they steadfastly remained. Finally, I gave up and acknowledged God’s all-knowing character. In the process I learned a few uncomfortable things about myself. The time came when my enemy was removed but I was no longer in the mode of telling.

When I pray I want my starting point to be assumption…the Lord will keep. It changes the nature of my requests. God knows. What I truly need, every day, is the ability to believe it.

God, I acknowledge your all-knowing character.
I believe that there is no empty space between you and me.
Help me to be always mindful that You know best!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Double Returns

Come home, hope-filled prisoners! This very
day I’m declaring a double bonus—
everything you lost returned twice-over!

Zechariah 9:12

Loss—it’s everywhere. Homes, bank accounts, jobs, marriages, loved ones, traditions, no matter who you talk to, they have lost something. And, because the surrounding culture is changing so rapidly, our loss of what has been or what was becomes even more pronounced. As the level of loss varies so do our reactions to that loss. But the pain that accompanies loss is universal. Loss is being slammed into a wall. Spinning and reeling we lose our bearings finding it difficult to focus, imprisoned in our pain.

The Jewish exiles were intimate with loss. For years they had been prisoners of one regime after another and with each imprisonment a bit more had disappeared. In the midst of all their losses it felt as though God had vanished. God, however, speaks to Zechariah, telling him to faithfully remind them that they will never lose His love, comfort and care.

God never vanishes but sometimes I exit his presence. Bent over in pain I look at my feet, missing God’s loving and comforting gaze. As difficult as it may be, when facing loss it is the stories of those who have gone before me that can help me stand up straight. The plight of the Israelites is just one story where I can be assured that while I may have lost everything, God is not lost. He promises that everything that is lost will be returned and more. What is returned may not look the way I expected but it will be much more satisfying.

Loving God, forgive me when bent in pain
I lose sight of you.
Thank you for offering hope for a future that is more
than I can see presently.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Had trouble with the internet last evening and so this morning I'm reposting a devo from a year ago. Hope you don't mind. I love to hear from readers. Thank you for your comments!

Run away from infantile indulgence.
Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace...

2 Timothy 2:22 (The Message)

“We’re training the baby at a very early age how to relax.” So says the owner of a new up and coming “baby spa” where infants come to be soothed, massaged and coddled. Here infants will be the focus of attention with someone attending to the “needs” they don’t know exist. And while these infants know nothing of what it will take to learn how to walk, talk, and ultimately work to support themselves, it is apparently important that in their helpless, dependent state they learn how to do nothing.

Time will ultimately tell us if “training” a baby how to relax is successful or necessary. But even before the progress of time common sense would seem to say that what is being taught at a deeper level is the importance of “me”, “my”, “mine."

How does this pertain to the life of a Jesus follower? If I look at the “baby spa” image as well as the underlying “me” message I better start running! Taking account of my life and asking the question, “What indulgences occupy my life, keeping me as the focus?” could be painful. I like certain indulgences!

But, the message of Jesus was to not live for myself but to make my life an outpouring of God’s Spirit. This type of maturity comes only as I run from that which keeps me at the “baby spa.” Running towards faith, love and peace doesn’t allow for “me” time but I believe I'll be in better shape.

I want you as my coach, Jesus. Teach me to run!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Giving My All

I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things
true, noble, reputable…gracious—the best, not the worst…

Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

I knew a “church lady” who gave her “all” to her congregation. She sang in the choir, taught Sunday School, embraced her role on the elder board, never missed a church social and always was first on the prayer chain. To a casual observer it appeared as though the congregation couldn’t possibly do without her. Her fellow church goers appreciated her ability to get things done. But eventually they discovered that her “all” was tearing holes in the congregational fabric—her “all” came with a need to control and criticize just about everything.

There two categories of individuals— pessimists or optimists. When I stand in line I like to listen to conversations and I’ve discovered that pessimists rule. Restaurants to churches to schools are filled with people whose need to control their surroundings hasn’t been realized. Nothing or no one measures up to their personal standard!

When I fill my mind on the best, not the worst requires that I step outside my personal vision and take in the God created landscape I always find it far more unique, complex and exhilarating!

Why then is filling one’s mind with the true, noble and gracious things of life so challenging? The truth is that often we meditate on my ideas, fill our minds with my desire, seeing everything through my custom eye glasses. Difficult as it may be, the “all” of a Jesus follower is focused attention on all that is best, avoiding even a glance at the worst.

Creative God, when You completed each creative season
You saw that it was good.
Change my vision from one of self-focus to filling my mind with Your created best.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fifth Bucket List Item

Bucket item 1
Learn how to be a woman of prayer with the faith to match!
Bucket item 2
Live everyday believing that I am created in God's image
and because of it I have important work to do in His Kingdom.

Bucket item 3
Live my life saying "yes" to only those things that God has for me.

Bucket item 4
Make my first response to an enemy be one of forgiveness.

When I started out with my Jesus follower bucket list I limited it to five. Over the course of these last several days I realized that I could come up with any number of additional character traits that I would like to be a part of my life by the end of my life.

For this exercise I'm going to keep my list to five because as my bucket list looks now I have a lot to work on! There is one trait that I would really like to have and have it as natural as breathing. It's based on 2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I don't like to be weak or feel weak. My name means "strong" its root in the Latin word for "valor." Weakness is not part of my nature and yet repeatedly I come up against my weakness.

To recognize weakness, in the context of a Jesus follower, is in reality a strength. To be able to accept and embrace, as a way of living, that God's power can only be truly revealed when I am limp as a noodle, unable to do anything on my own is a gift. A gift that I am long from being able to receive. With each difficulty, each challenge, each road block I find that accepting my weakness is my weakness.

This is the final quality that goes into my bucket list as a Jesus follower--

Bucket Item 5
Learn to embrace my weakness and allow God's power to be strong.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Have No Control

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear
but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7

Darkness terrified me as a child. Plumping my courage I would enter a dark room and shout, “Get out of here!” At bedtime my door remained open for the lighted hallway to pierce the darkness. My patient babysitter sat by my bedside until sleep visited. The weird part of this childhood experience was that in the recesses of my child’s mind I knew I had nothing to fear.

As I grew older I beaome aware of “legitimate” fears. But, fear is systemic and like a rash that starts small within a short period it can spread. If left untreated it soon becomes the focus of one’s existence. And “existence” is what it is because fear is a robber of life.

Given the circumstances of conflict and persecution for Timothy no wonder Paul reminds him that fear is not a gift from God. It is a burden that isn't mine to carry! Instead He freely gives antidotes for fear—power, love and self-control. When I embrace these it's just like shouting “Get out of here!”

Thia power comes when I believe that God is present, no matter the circumstances—if God is for me who can be against me! Love for others, my life, my circumstances takes shape when I allow myself to be enveloped in God’s loving embrace.  God has not asked me to be in “control” of anything. It goes against my grain nevertheless daily I work on self-control - believing that God has it all under control.

Loving God, forgive me for the numerous times I allow fear
to spread over my life. It has controlled my thoughts
and my actions for too long.
I need Your antidotes of power, love and self-control.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bucket List - Day Four

Bucket item 1: Learn how to be a woman of prayer with the faith to match!

Bucket item 2: Live everyday believing that I am created in God's image and because of it I have important work to do in His Kingdom.

Bucket item: Live my life saying "yes" to only those things that God has for me.

Remember yesterday I said I had two thoughts marinating that I was considering for my bucket list? Well, today in one of my breakout sessions it was clear that the second thought needed to be brought out and put in the bucket. It is one that causes me more pain than the others but nevertheless is critical to my maturing as a follower of Jesus Christ. Forgiving one's enemies.

My list of "enemies" is fairly short but their impact on my life has been and in some cases continues to be intense. There are those who say they haven't ever had an enemy - you are blessed. Then there are those who don't like to think in terms of people being "enemies" and they blithely move through their lives ignoring or excusing behavior that is destructive to the Body of Christ or to specific individuals..

Dare I say that "enemies" exist otherwise we wouldn't be instructed to love them!

I discovered a prayer today from an organization called Hope for the Heart and it was helpful as I relunctantly pulled out the forgiveness/love your enemies trait and placed it in my "bucket." This is the prayer I want to be able to pray without hesitation as I face present and future enemies.

Lord Jesus, thank You for caring about how much my heart has been hurt. You know the pain I have felt because of (list every hurt or offense). Right now I release all the pain into Your hands. Thank You, Lord for dying on the cross for me and extending Your forgiveness to me. As an act of my will, I choose to forgive (name the person). Right now, I move (name the person) off of my emotional hook to Your hook. I refuse all thoughts of revenge. I trust that in Your time and in Your way You will deal with (name the person) as You see fit. And Lord, thank You for giving me Your power to forgive so that I can be set free. In your holy name I pray. Amen.

Sometimes a written prayer makes things simpler. This is a good prayer and I prayed it today, naming my enemy. And while I have prayed for my enemy in the past, today there was a greater release. Taking the hurts, the lies, the slander, the mistreatment off my emotional hook, hanging it on Jesus' wall I walked away.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Bucket Item: Make my first response to an enemy be one of forgiveness.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bucket List - Day Three

Bucket item 1: Learn how to be a woman of prayer with the faith to match!

Bucket item 2: Live everyday believing that I am created in God's image and because of it I have important work to do in His Kingdom.

My mind has been ping ponging back and forth all day about what next I want to put on my "bucket list" as a Jesus follower. There were two that I kept marinating as I flew today to Dallas for a conference. I had plenty of time to marinate due to flight delays! By the time I arrived this evening I had been traveling 8 hours for a distance that I probably could have driven in the same amount of time. But, that's getting off point!

After checking into my room, throwing down my bags and rushing out the door to get to the opening keynote address I was still marinating as I sat down in the cavernous ballroom. We worshipped, we prayed, were given the necessary conference details and then came the keynote speaker. Now,the type of conference I'm attending isn't so important with the exception that the majority of us are women (1,300) and every single one of us is a Jesus follower. Every single one of us is passionate about what we do. Every single one of us believes that our God reigns.

This is the context in which I knew what would be my next "bucket" item.

The speaker was good, refreshing and engaging and she ended the evening with, "over these next few days I want you to ask Jesus what He wants you to say "yes" to." And that was it! I knew what I needed to add next and I pulled out one of my marinating thoughts - obedience.

What I like about this approach is that there was an assumption that Jesus wants me to say "yes" to something but often I don't ask "what do You want me to say "yes" to?" There is a greater obedience in this manner of prayer instead of figuring out all the options, choosing one that I think fits me best and then approaching God with "here's the plan and I want You to say "yes" to it!

I've known several people over the years who have almost drowned in the waters of ministry because they said "YES!" to just about everything instead of asking, "Jesus, what do You want me to say "yes" to?" I have been one of those drowning victims!

But you know what? Obedience isn't an actual word that is readily found in the Bible! Instead Jesus presents his disciples with a variety of things they can say "yes" to without saying the words, "obey Me." Instead Jesus says, if you love me, feed my sheep - Follow Me - love your neighbor as yourself - the list is endless of what Jesus wants us to say "yes" to.

Ah! Jesus wants me to come to Him open handed, without an agenda!

And then I came to Matthew 22:21 when the Pharisees have again tried to manipulate and corrupt Jesus' message by asking who should they say "yes" to when it comes to taxes! Jesus responds, Therefore give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

Saying "yes" to God's desires for my life, the things that are already His but may not always be comfortable for me, defines in my mind the word - obedience.

Bucket item: Live my life saying "yes" to only those things that God has for me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's On My Bucket List

Yesterday I put into my Jesus follower bucket:

Learn how to be a woman of prayer with a faith to match. (Matthew 21:22)

My thoughts today circled around a passage in Genesis that for years has been an incentive for me, even before the age of bucket lists.

Over 20 years ago I was dealt a religious blow by Kari Torjesen Malcolm, author of Women at the Crossroads:Beyond Feminism and Traditionalism. From my earliest memories of faith I had been taught that essentially women, in the church, were to be seen and not heard.

Being a child in the 60's and an adolescent turning adult in the 70's I was a girl/teen/woman looking ahead, living in a rapidly changing culture, while feeling the tug of the past to keep things the way they were, especially in the church. That period of time was significant in the life of the church - music was changing, preaching styles were evolving, Bible translations were multiplying and worship forms were being transformed. By the time I was in my mid-twenties I was reveling in the newness of what was happening along with being dizzy with questions.

Published in the early '80's Ms. Malcolm's book opened a world of thought on the role of women in church and faith like I had never heard before. Then came the opportunity to hear her speak and I will never forget her turning to Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. It was this verse that was the basis for Ms. Malcolm's premise that women were also created in the image of God and therefore we had as much responsibility as men to be witnesses, active participants in the Kingdom, out in the world proclaiming the Good News. Because we were the reflection of God's image we had more to do, more to live out than what the Christian culture had, up to that point, ingrained in us. Motherhood wasn't bad, indeed it was God's gift, but it wasn't the only responsibility that God was giving us, his created women.  The majority of us in the room that day were straddling an ever widening cultural gap and we were needing to make a choice. Driving home that day I made a decision that radically changed my life.

Years later, having waded through years of infertility I was thankful that on that eureka day I had decided to embrace my new reflection - created in God's image. When my husband and I had exhausted what "miracles" the doctors could perform and our finances could withstand we were still childless. It was at this juncture that I leaned into this passage from Genesis. My identity was not in being a mother. My identity, my image, was truly in the One who made me.

Writing this now in the 21st century when women's roles have broadened and expanded, even in the church, my struggles back in 1985 seem ancient and perhaps unbelievable. But being assured that day that God had something for me to do that went beyond just staying at home raising children saved my life when I believed motherhood had been stolen from me. Years later I did become a mother of a delightful, beautiful 2 1/2 year old (now 20 years old) and I believe, or at least pray, that the words Ms. Malcolm spoke into my life helped me be a better mother.

So, today's desire is this and I place it in my bucket with gratitude to Kari Torjesen Malcolm:

Bucket item: Live everyday believing that I am created in God's image and because of it I have important work to do in His Kingdom.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Bucket List

Having rented a car with Sirius Radio I indulged my "like" of talk radio on a road trip this summer. Because I don't live in either a metropolitan area or have satellite radio I don't often get my talk radio fix. But, on this trip I happily drove down the interstate to the sound of bantering voices. Through the maze of topics between the host and guests came this question, "So, what IS on your bucket list?" Hmmm - it dawned on me that I had been hearing this "bucket list" thing in various conversations. It's the newest expression of "what do you want to do before you die?"

Off and on for the past several weeks I've thought about my own "bucket list." But, then I got down to specifics and I wondered what would be on a "bucket list" for a Jesus follower. What are the spiritual disciplines that I would like to "master" in this life? Who do I want to become in Christ and what needs to be on my "bucket list" in order for me to grow into that reality?

For the next five days I'm going to work on a "bucket list" as a Jesus follower. Of course, each one will be based on a verse in the Bible because that is where the standards are found! They won't be in any particular order of importance because all of them are part of what will help me grow into the character that God designed. Perhaps you could send me some suggestions as well!

So, here goes! My first bucket list item is based on Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

I pray. I ask. And, many times I receive but I have to admit that there are times my prayers lack the punch of  faith. I would like my life to be a life of prayer with no holding back faith. Now, I don't believe that whatever I pray for I'll receive. But, if my prayers center on becoming a whole person in Christ or my prayers seek after God's purpose and desire for myself or others, my faith, like the hemorrhaging woman (your faith has healed you--Mark 5:34) will bring it about.

Bucket Item: Learn how to be a woman of prayer with a faith to match!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Honored Guests

Having wiped up the last of the remains of our dinner for seven my attention turned to breakfast the next morning for more friends. Pulling out my grandmother's silver, my wedding china and my uncle's crystal goblets I carefully smoothed out the white linen tablecloth and began deliberately setting each place. Does this all sound terribly quaint and old fashioned? I suppose it does. China, silver and crystal patterns aren't particularly relevant to the 20 something crowd.

 I am a complex woman I am sure.My husband assures me of this fact fairly frequently. Loving change but cherishing the old I straddle two worlds that often careen into each other just to bounce off and disappear into opposing realms. Many times I ask myself, why bother with china when paper plates are much more expedient! Nevertheless, there remains in me a hungering for beauty in the most basic of functions, namely a meal.

Jesus sat at table with friends and outcasts - the sensory nature of each table reflecting the character of the host.  I can't help but wonder if Martha didn't put out her very best for him. Or imagine the kind of meal Peter's mother-in-law must have prepared Jesus after he touched her! The meals kept Jesus with them, opening up conversation, enjoying his company. But, I believe they were also expressions of love. Martha's table groaned with the weight of her love. The final Passover feast spilled over with the abundance of the disciples love. Jesus was a treasured guest, deserving of the finest that was found in their cupboards.

And so with all these thoughts about Jesus as guest, meal as expressions of love,  I nestle the final cup in its saucer. Morning will bring the laughter and warmth of friends through my door. Jesus will be here too. I hope that my table will be a testimony of my love for both friend and Savior. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Good Character

It’s a mark of good character to avert quarrels,
but fools love to pick fights.

Proverbs 20:3 (The Message)

Marriage can be a fertile ground for developing fighting skills. Two people, who up until the time of falling in love were strangers, now come together bringing with them a load of differences. A small opinion about how something is done can quickly become a battleground and the opinion holder suddenly finds himself in a dilemma—to back off or go to the mat. There are, it turns out, very few “opinions” that are worth wrestling to the point of a victory over one's lover.

For some there is a fear of becoming a doormat and so they “hold their own” against the opposition. Others have a need to dominate and still others pick fights just to “get things going.” None of it enhances the character of a person. Instead it leaves the “winner” with a false sense of victory and the “loser” flattened. Quarrels just don’t seem to accomplish very much.

Giving ground isn’t weak. To be able to relinquish oneself to another’s ideas, opinions or even quirkiness shows strength of character. Giving ground is the ability to think more of others than of oneself; responding instead of reacting.

Within the Christian community this ability is particularly crucial. Like a marriage, the church is a coming together of strangers who have one commonality—falling in love with God. But sometimes our opinions override what has brought us together and we find ourselves reacting.

To bring about peace, no matter the environment, we will need more people pursuing good character and fewer fools.

Jesus, I want to be a person of good character,
thinking less of myself and more of others.
I give you my pride, my fear and all that keeps me acting foolishly.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Do You Know?

And by this we know that he abides in us,
by the Spirit whom he has given us.

I John 3:24b

When she was driving away from the college, leaving behind her youngest daughter, she cried, “God, will you take care of her?” There was a group of us floating in the same boat, eager to hear if God answered her cry. What she “heard” was a question, “What do you know?” So she began to list all the things that she “knew” about God - God’s character, His provision, His love, His care and with each “knowing” memory her anxiousness began to disappear.

And, from the time I heard God’s question in answer to a question, “What do you know?” a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t asked it of myself. Daily my list grows longer and longer.

With so many “unknowns” confronting us it’s good to stop and remember what we do know—God abides in us. Whatever is happening in our lives now can often block out the light of what we know to be true from the past. That “issue” niggling at us becomes a distraction and soon we find ourselves stumbling blind. Our fumbling response to these present distractions, hardships, struggles, discouragements can impede our forward progress and prevent us from living vibrant lives in the Kingdom.

“What do you know?” It’s a question that encourages us to stop, take a deep breath, and reacquaint ourselves with the promise …behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

Jesus, thank you for Your Holy Spirit
that points us always back to You
and the promises that You have kept
throughout all time.