A New Attitude

I closed my computer and sighed. I was so tired. Why Lord, did You call me to this?

I enjoy most things I do every day. Last year, I launched a new career. It was a challenge. But the biggest part of the challenge was the fact I had to go back to school for a Master’s degree.

Every ounce of my being fought the idea of returning to school. I had thanked the Lord that stage of life was over decades ago.

Now, I’m back to the books as I encourage my own daughter in her freshman year of college.

I’ll be the first to admit my attitude stunk. But, I wasn’t doing anything about it.

Until I read Philippians 2:14 one early Saturday morning. “Do everything without grumbling and arguing.”  A paraphrase might have read, “Cheerfully do the work I have given you.”

Ouch.

I really hadn’t done that at all. My family knew I wasn’t happy. My colleagues knew I wasn’t happy. My friends definitely knew I wasn’t happy.

And I’m sure the Lord hadn’t missed any of this at all.

Every time I grumbled, I was arguing with God over His assignment for me. It was as if I were saying, “You don’t know what You’re doing!” 

I’d be willing to bet He wasn’t happy with my attitude.

I’m still not happy every moment outside work seems stolen for school. But I’m working on only allowing positive things to escape my lips concerning my courses.

Recently, I registered for next semester. By May, I should be halfway to my Master’s degree. (I had to really work to push out the part of me which inwardly moaned, only half-way!)

Sometimes God calls us to scenarios we would rather skip, and problems we don’t wish to ponder.

But, each does serve a purpose. We need to trust Him. We also need to glorify Him in whatever we’re doing. Not only in action, but in our choice of words as well.

I’m slowly learning that means doing what He’s called me to do without grumbling or arguing.

I may have felt too old to be in school, but God is teaching me He’s not done with me yet!

Time for Everything

Have you ever felt both happy and sad at the same exact time for the same exact reason?

This week, I will drop off our first child at college.

I celebrated with her when she read the acceptance letter to her first choice school. I really got excited when her scholarship came through, making the dream a reality.

I look at the wonderful young lady she has become and I could not be happier for her. She’s been offered many opportunities and I continuously encourage her to seize them.

I’m her mom. I am so proud of her, so excited for her, and can’t wait to see where God leads her next. As her mom, I know I will miss her desperately.

As she’s been saying good-bye to everyone, it’s really sinking in. She won’t be at the dinner table. I won’t she her across the church, seated in the teen pew. I won’t get to embrace her and pray with her before bed each night.

How can I feel so happy, so excited, and so sad, simultaneously?

The God who created those emotions and who created me also gave recorded wisdom on this matter. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 reads, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

In her preparations to move over 2000 miles away, we have shared much laughter! In those quiet times before bed, I’ve solitarily shed some tears.

God knows about those tears. He also knows about the joy I harbor,so thrilled at seeing His plans for her unfold.

He created all the emotions I’m feeling today. He knows. He will help me leave her there. He will be with her. He loves her even more than I.

Yes, there is a time for everything. Even when we weep and laugh and mourn and dance in rapid succession, He knows. He understands. And He will carry us through.

 

Come

Are you weary?

Are you tired of always being tired?

Do you days last forever and the nights never seem long enough?

When, when will this ever end?

Noah was called to quite the task: build an ark, wait out a flood, and perpetuate a new, kinder humanity. God clearly called him, but God never revealed a definite timeline.

Maybe you are stuck without an end date. Maybe the thought of this never-ending saga is just too much. I bet Noah had a few days like that. When the stench of those animals confined in the boat brought tears to his eyes and aching to his heart.

When, when will this ever end?

But Jesus gave us a promise to make the wait more palatable.

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Jesus calls us to come to Him when we are quite certain we can not move any more.

He invites us when we are weary.

He soothes us when we are simply done.

He promises us rest when we fear we might never fully rest again.

His words could well have been: “Come to me all who are:

tired,

burned-out,

frustrated,

frazzled,

depleted,

depressed,

despaired,

bothered,

heavy-hearted,

and giving-up.

(because) I will give your rest.”

Rest from what troubles and tortures you.

Rest from what weighs on your hear and consumes your mind.

Rest from problems never resolved.

Rest from the terribly long days and the way-too-short nights.

Rest when no end is in sight.

He invites us to take His yoke – to tie ourselves to Him and carry and share our burdens with Him. He promises, with Him, it will go easier.

He wants to teach us.

He reminds us He is good and has our best intentions in mind.

He promises we will find rest for our souls. Not only eternal rest but a sweet, soul-satisfying rest for today: the knowledge that whatever I am called to do, it is well with my soul.

Whenever I consider His words, I realize, because of the weariness, I absolutely must go to Him.

 

“Where Are You?”

Frustrated, the realization set in. She had lost a bag. Not just any bag. It was her Sunday bag. The bag she carried to church. The bag which held her worn, pages-falling-out and cover-fading Bible.

She searched inside her home. No bag.

She searched inside her car. No bag.

She even returned to search inside her church. No bag.

“It will turn up,” she told herself, “I have my Bible app on my phone until it does.”

Only, somehow, without her beloved Bible with its highlighted verses and word-filled margins, she lost her routine.

Before she knew it, a week went by and she hadn’t spent time with her Savior.

She found cracks in her character she hadn’t seen before. She felt her temper rise faster and her heart despair farther.

“God what is wrong with me?” she cried out.

The words from Genesis 3:9 filled her mind, “Where are you?”

A simple question.

A valid question.

A question she did not want to answer because she quickly recognized the truth: it was she who was missing, not Him.

She had allowed losing time with Scripture to translate into lost conversation with God and then to grow in a girl living for herself.

She reflected on His question, “Where am I?”

Unlike His intent, her heart felt condemnation. She realized it was she who was not spending time with Him, not He who was abandoning her.

She vowed to change, right then and there. She prayed, read Scripture on her phone and learned the lesson well.

Amazingly she found her Bible in the trunk of her car the next day…

 

Little Lies?

Cringing, she settled back into her chair. Replacing the receiver, she knew she had to take a break.
Now.
Walking out of the office down the corridor, she locked herself in the ladies’ room.
How had this happened?
Lord, forgive me. I just lied.
The fact that many would consider it a white lie didn’t ease her pain.
The fact the she would probably never be found out didn’t assuage her dismay.
The fact that she knew and God knew heaped conviction onto a heavy heart.
She recalled a Bible verse recently read, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murders, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all the liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Rev 21:8 NIV)
She felt sick.
But she knew how to find the cure.
Repent.
Accept His forgiveness.
Then, guard herself against it happening again.

Days later she replaced the receiver and bolted down the corridor to the ladies’ room. It was a busy day, but one in which she felt light-hearted and free.
She hadn’t allowed her sin to separate her from her Savior.

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your word to convict and restore me into Your arms. Remind me not to rank my sins, not to minimize them according to the worlds’ standards. Sin is sin. It can separate me from You. Remind me to restore myself to You through repentance. Thank You for You forgiveness and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He Will Be Praised

Frustration coursed through him as he sped away from the one person who so easily broke his heart.

It only took three words: I can’t believe.

He dearly loved his heavenly Father. He knew his life was a testimony to God’s goodness; without God he would never have become a decent person.

Watching his sister struggle so profoundly with faith tore his heart out.

He’d witnessed with words on countless occasions. He’d acted with love when love wasn’t returned.

He’d held his tongue while harsh words rung in his ears. He’d forgiven when she had cut him to the quick.

As he sped away he heard God’s gentle retort,

You don’t need to defend me. You don’t need to change her heart, that’s my job. You only need to love.

Be still, my son, and know I am God.

His heart stilled as he pondered the familiar Psalm. Be still and know I am God.

I don’t need anything from you, be still, calm down. I’m in control here. I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

God will be praised simply because He said it. And He isn’t relying on any of us to bring it about.

We can each relax and trust that He is God. He will orchestrate it all, and it will happen.

Braking the car, he thought to himself, God doesn’t need my defense. With that final though, he pulled into the driveway and parked the car. He also parked his heart directly on Psalm 46:10.

He would stop talking, doing, and concerning himself over things God hadn’t called him to do. He would instead trust that God would indeed fulfill His word.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for my calling. And Lord, thank You for limiting that calling. Please remind me to be obedient to that calling and only focus my words and actions on your instructions. Please help me recall your promises. They will happen because You declared it. Not because I did anything. There is such freedom in You limit! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Because I Love You…

“Why, Mommy?” asked each of my three precious daughters as she traveled through childhood. No matter which child or what circumstance, the answer was always the same, “Because I love you and want to keep you safe.”

Each could rarely fathom the reason behind a rule, (Why can’t I run out into the street after my ball?) Hopefully she would learn to trust my judgement and my rules, even when she didn’t understand.

As each has aged and begun babysitting, the realization dawns. Young children truly think for themselves. But they don’t always possess the knowledge or experience to uncover the best answers.

My daughters now understand why we have rules and enforce them. They now comprehend how dearly we love them and wanted to protect them, keeping them out of harm’s way.

God does the same with His children. He gives us rules for our own good. He also gives us the Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re going the wrong way.

Instead of rebelling and claiming independence, doing things my way, I find life is better and more richly blessed when I obey Him.

James 1:16-17 warns us, “Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift is from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like the shifting shadows.” (NIV)

Basically:

Don’t buy into any lies.

All gifts are blessings from God.

God doesn’t change.

Don’t buy into the lies you hear in the world. Listen to His words, words filled with wisdom. A wisdom we can’t fathom and will never find ourselves. Be careful what you put before yourself.  Those messages in the shows you watch, the media you read, and the music you hear will penetrate your mind. If you spend more time with those things and hearing those messages, those are the things you will think about and will act upon.

God doesn’t change.  While our world ‘evolves,’ and man thinks he makes considerable progress, God stays the same.  God is holy. He doesn’t need to progress. He’s waiting for us to realize what we really need is Him. What a comfort that the Creator of the universe is constant in His ideals, His love, and His expectations.

He loves us and He wants to keep us safe: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

He truly has incomprehensible wisdom; we do not.

He can see the entire picture; we can not.

He knows the plans He has for us; we do not.

Why should we obey Him? Simply put, He is a loving Father to His children. He loves us and He wants to keep us safe.

 

Reflections:

How have I been blessed by following His rules?

Which of God’s rules have I considered unimportant in my life?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, How easily I write off some of Your rules, as outdated or not applicable to me. Please forgive such attitudes and convict my heart to obey You. Please teach me to focus my thoughts on You. Please prompt me to spend more time with You, so I know what You expect.  Thank You for loving me, and working to protect me with You laws. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Friday, July 8, for the next post.

 

Appreciating Discipline

“Because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:12 (NIV)

Ahh, was I ever frustrated! My exhausted mind refused to focus on the grammar of this foreign language.

It had been a long month since my arrival. My host sisters spoke better English than I did German. They loved to practice English but house rules dictated German was to be spoken at all times with the exception of Friday nights.

Today was not Friday.

My host mother didn’t understand English. But she knew German grammar, and knew how to properly use all five translations of ‘the.’  I did not. Early on, I established an annoying habit of assigning ‘die’ to each and every noun I used.

Unintentionally, I drove her crazy!

She constantly corrected me. At night, exhausted and just trying to communicate, her voice rang in my ears, imparting great amounts of grammatical wisdom.

At seventeen, I missed appreciation for appropriate grammar, but I do recall how she graciously handled my evident chagrin over her correction.

“Stefanie,” she’d said, “I wouldn’t correct you if I though you couldn’t learn it.” (I recall mulling over her words, which were of course in German, and upon realizing what she’d said, temporarily celebrated the fact she believed I contained the capacity to learn it!)

That was two decades ago; her words are still with me. They remind me of Proverbs 3.

Would you correct someone if you didn’t:

  1. Care what he was doing?
  2. Care about him?
  3. Believe he was capable of doing better?

 

As a mom, I would not attempt correction unless all three criteria were met. Parents discipline because they love, believe kids can do better, and they care their kids do things correctly.

God disciplines us because He loves us. (John 3:16) He knows, through Christ, we can do better. (Philippians 4:13) And, God cares that we do things right, so we can share in His holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)

Hebrews 12:11 encourages, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained for it.” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)

German grammar, like the Christian life, isn’t easy. I haven’t completely mastered either, but I have grown in both. My time abroad  taught me an important life lesson: Just as my host-mom corrected my grammar, God will discipline and correct me. Even when He sees I’m tired. Even when he sees I’m frustrated.

But I should not resent His correction. He’s correcting me because He loves me. He’s correcting me because He knows I can do better. And, He’s correcting me to lead me to an abundant life.

Yes, the Lord disciplines those He loves!

 

Reflections:

How do I view discipline when I’m giving it?

How do I often view discipline when I’m receiving it?

Considering discipline, do I need an attitude adjustment?

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, Thank You for Your discipline. Thank You for caring enough about me and about what I do to correct me. I haven’t always appreciated that discipline and for that I’m sorry. Please forgive my attitude and help shape my heart into one which readily receives your instruction and your correction.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Friday, July 1 for the next post.

 

Words Of Wisdom, Part I

“I don’t care, it’s my life,” the twenty-something adolescent yelled as she ran out the door, jumped behind the wheel and sped away. My parents just don’t understand, she thought, no one does.

Sometimes, we think we know better but in reality, we ought to know better than that.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

What is a ‘fear of the Lord?’ The acknowledgment the He, God the Creator, breathed life into each of us and can extinguish that breath at any time? No counsel against Him can stand? The realization that He is God, and I’m not? That God knows everything, and I don’t know nearly as much as I think?

Psalm 33:8 says, “Let all inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” When we consider who He is, what He has done, and what He promises, yes, we absolutely must stand in awe of Him.

He created us. He gave us a choice: submit to Him, a good and loving Father, or live for ourselves.

The problem with the latter is often our pride spouts promises we just can’t keep.  Before we know it, our words of worldly wisdom are empty noises underlining our weakness: we tried to do it all alone.

How wise are we when we realize, ‘hey, it’s not really all about me, it’s not really just my life.’

How wise we become when we stand in awe of Him. When we determine, ‘I should not be front and center.’ When we back up, back down, understanding our rightful place is on our knees. We need to know where we stand in relationship to God. It’s certainly lower than we might think!

I don’t know about you, but I’m physically past twenty. But, how often do I visit that adolescent mindset? To continue maturing, I must stay grounded in God’s word so I can grow wiser.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. How wise are you?

Prayer: Dear Gracious Father,

Thank You for Your instruction, Your wisdom, and Your love. You know the plans You have for me; there is no reason I need to go it alone. I trust You and I thank You for Your constant care. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

The Power Of A Woman, Part VII

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” Ruth 2:11 (NIV)

 

“This is hard,” she thought as she gazed into her mother-in-law’s eyes.

She’s freeing me. I could go back to what I know.

 I’ve known such sorrow; no one would blame me.

 Others have done it…

               No!

In the end, it would be a return to captivity, this decision to possibly abandon her mother-in-law, and her God.

Ruth shook her head. NO! There was once a time she didn’t know better, had not been taught as a child. But today she knew.

There was no turning her back on Naomi. There was no turning her back on her faith. There was no turning her back on her God. The road seemed unbearable, yet she refused to change direction.

God would help her, and she would help Naomi.

What made Ruth so obstinate?

Her list boiled down to two ideas:

First, it just wasn’t right to leave Naomi alone, no matter what.

Second, Ruth had found a truly fulfilling way of worship, a meaningful way of life. She had found the one, true, God.

She was not about to leave her faith now.  After all her losses, she knew she would die without her God. She needed God to sustain her, without Him, she had nothing.

I don’t know what you’re facing right now. Life can play ultimate hardball sometimes. Ruth watched her mother-in-law lose her husband and then her two sons.  Ruth knew the agonizing loss of her own husband.

On top of all that, Ruth and Naomi knew need.  There was famine in the land and no food, and no one to provide.

Yet, Ruth persisted in her faith.  She wasn’t about to abandon God now. She refused to relinquish her relationship with Naomi or with God.

Whatever mountains are staring you down, however much you want to throw in the towel, remember Ruth.

Having lost everything except her faith and knowing true need, Ruth continued doing what was right and acted on faith.

The result? Love, security and peace she never could have authored.

The power propelling Ruth was the power of her faith. When it got unbearably difficult, even near impossible, she trusted God to sustain her. We consider her remarkable, as Boaz did. Yet, I wonder if Ruth would point her finger at God as the remarkable one. If was God who provided for her needs, all her needs. The need for faith, the need for secure provision, the need for human love.

She ‘just’ leaned on Him. That is the power of a remarkable woman.

 

Reflections:

How do I persevere when living faithfully is difficult?

What have I wanted to quit but know that’s not the right choice?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for the example of Ruth. She knew great sorrow and great need and yet refused to turn away from You. Please help me to live out a faith like that. Thank You for always loving, always interceding, and always carrying me through the difficult days. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

               Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, June 6, for the next post.