Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Battle of Wills

..."Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." -Matthew 6:9b-10

   For a Christian, I don't think there's much in life that can be harder than to earnestly pray for God's will in all things, and to really be prepared to actually yield to His will in all things. We have a tendency to want to take control, to tell God how we think things should be, to ask that things be done OUR way, according to OUR will and desires. And that's when we're talking to him at all about what our desires are! How hard it is to trust that His plan, His way, His will is the best of all possible plans and ways, even when it may not give us what we think we want, when we want it and how we want it.

    We think to ourselves, while we're very content with life, that it's a given that we want what God wants. After all, we're deep in the midst of blessings and joy, so faith is easy then! But let anything fall apart, we often find ourselves at odds with God, wanting to know why something bad has happened or why we don't have something we very much want, and wanting it to all be fixed to our satisfaction right NOW. While we're unchallenged, we may think we'll stand strong, but it's incredibly difficult to yield to God when our happiness and the things and people that we treasure most are threatened or have been lost. Personally, one of the hardest times for me to trust in Him was when we first found out our son had something really wrong with him. Twice, I feared for his life, and twice I found the strength to give my son back to God, placing him in God's hands, even if it meant that my time with him ended up being much shorter than I wanted... That was so incredibly scary, to yield to Him like that! But doing so was the best thing I could have done, for not only did it bring me an incredible dose of peace in a very trying time, but it built up my faith to watch what God did with such a difficult situation once I stopped trying to be the one in charge. I found it helpful in such scary situations to hang onto promises like the one in Jeremiah 29:11,' "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."'

   But when things turn scary isn't the only time we can find it difficult to yield to God's will. Sometimes we don't understand it when we pray for something and we hear "no" or "not yet", especially when what we're asking for seems like a good thing that ought to be in line with His will, according to our understanding. We cannot know His plans, or what good He is going to bring about as a result of denying our requests or waiting before fulfilling them. Sometimes hind sight is 20/20 and we can see at least some of the evidence of His working it for good. Sometimes we have to settle for not knowing in this lifetime, because we can't see His work. As a person who is chronically ill, my requests for healing falls under this category. It's been a "not yet" for a very long time, and I've rebelled a few times against that, but I can honestly say that I can see a lot of His work, the way He's using it for good. He's been drawing me ever closer to Him, shaping my character through adversity, and bringing me into contact with people I never would have had contact with otherwise. Some have had a positive effect on me, and I've had a positive effect on others, and many have become cherished friends. He's also used it to shape the characters and compassion within my family, and I've even seen some remarkable wisdom emerge about trusting God's timing in even the youngest members of our family. There have been lots of silver linings to this dark cloud of illness and pain. Looking for and finding such things helps in the wait, and makes it a little easier to bear. But even when we can't see those things, we can still trust that there is something good coming from having to yield our desires to His will and timing, for Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." That's a promise.

   It can be difficult to yield to Him when we learn that He wants us to do something that we're not particularly inclined to do... studying scripture and learning what it tells us is His will can present all sorts of opportunities to grow beyond our comfort zone. But obviously, when we're wanting something that we KNOW isn't in line with God's will, it's going to be difficult to yield to Him. We want what we want, and we human beings are notorious for finding every justification imaginable for going ahead and doing what we know we ought not, giving in to temptation. It can be a real struggle for Christians, being torn between satisfying our own desires and following God. Even Paul found this difficult, saying, "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." Romans 7:19 We're still sinners, even after we've accepted Christ's gift of salvation. But we have a secret weapon... a direct connection to God. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." - Matthew 26:41 This verse comes from the passage telling about Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he asked three of his disciples, including Peter, to keep watch, but they kept falling asleep, and my NIV Life Application Study Bible has this to say about the verse: "Jesus used Peter's drowsiness to warn him about the kinds of temptation he would soon face. The way to overcome temptation is to keep watch and pray. Watching means being aware of the possibilities of temptation, sensitive to the subtleties, and spiritually equipped to fight it. Because temptation strikes where we are most vulnerable, we can't resist it alone. Prayer is essential because God's strength can shore up our defenses and defeat Satan's power." First we have to be honest with ourselves about our weaknesses, then we have to be willing to ask God to help us, even when we're not sure we really want that help, because the temptation is just so... well... tempting! That's hard. REALLY hard. But it's also very liberating, because who really wants to be controlled by sin? Who really wants to keep settling for less than God's very best blessings? How much better to be denied what we think we want, at least for now and in this wrong way, then to be rewarded in His timing with something so much more than what we could have ever asked? I've been faced with many temptations. Some I avoided pretty easily. Some I wavered. And with some, I fell. We all do. Nothing for it but to pick ourselves back up, repent, suffer the consequences, and move on, learning from our mistakes.

   But this I know beyond any shadow of doubt... While asserting my own will without regard to God's will has often led me to have regrets later,  I have never regretted yielding to God's will. His way has always led to more satisfaction, more blessings, more growth, more faith-building and amazing evidence of His active work in my life, more peace, more everything. I keep reminding myself of this every time I find myself wanting to resist His will.

Father, thank you for always answering our prayers when we sincerely ask that Your will be done! Help us to always trust in Your infinite wisdom and love, especially when it seems that we want something different from what You want for us. Thank you for rewarding our every effort to yield to You, blessing us with help, peace, understanding and more than we could ever ask. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Counting Blessings

*Author's Note- It's been a LONG time since I've written anything new for my blog! There's been so much going on, a lot of hardships endured in our family... We'd no sooner start to adjust to one, then another would hit. It's been a wild ride! But I'm hopeful that we're finally coming to enough stability to allow me to devote time to writing again. Your prayers for that would be appreciated.

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.- Philippians 4:8

  A few weeks ago, I encountered my 3rd-born child, a daughter with a very sensitive heart, looking sad and writing something on a piece of paper. I stopped to see what she was writing, and saw it was a list, and asked if I could see what she was listing. Turns out, she was making a list of the bad things that had happened that day to make her sad. "Oh Sweetie, I'm sorry you had such a bad day! I'm sure these things must have really hurt, especially all in one day like that!" With tears in her eyes, she confirmed that it had. So I hugged her for a while, then said, "I don't think you really want to make this list, though, because it'll just make you even more sad, I think. How about making a happy list instead, one in which you write down all the things you can think of that have made you happy? That sort of a list might do more to make you feel good on sad days like this one. What do you think?" She agreed, and proceeded to make a nice list of joyful things, one that was longer than her sad list. And pretty soon, I was watching my beloved daughter bounce around the house with a smile on her face again.
  It occurred to me, though, that even while I was teaching my daughter, that there was a lesson there for me, too. Like the old, much loved hymn, Count Your Blessings states, "Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God hath done." When we do this, we become aware that even when things are bad, we still have much to be thankful for, and that thankful heart helps put us in a state of mind in which we're better able to stand against the bad things in life. As a Christian, I already knew this, as it's played out in my life often enough. But my mind continued to nibble at this thought, not quite letting go of the concept, probably because there was something more for me to learn from it (isn't it funny how often that can happen?) It wasn't for a couple of more weeks, though, that I got an inkling of what I needed to figure out...
  First off, though I think there's plenty to commend about such a person, I am NOT a Pollyanna type, and am not likely to ever be one. I consider myself more of a 'realist', able to look at the whole picture and see both the good and bad and accept that this is just the way it is. I tend to think that this is important for changing things for the better, because if you refuse to acknowledge that anything is bad, what's the point of putting any effort into making things better? After all, why fix what isn't broken, or at least not broken enough to be worth mentioning? I see myself as quite practical about looking at the whole picture, of stating that something is both good and bad in various ways. I have no problem with accepting both the good news and the bad news in whichever order they are given, because I fully expect that regardless of which I hear first, there's going to be something on the other side of the equation to be heard as well. I just take it all as part of the big picture. I report things that way, too: "Yes, my joint pain is much better, but I've been so very tired," for instance. This drives my beloved husband (who I sometimes suspect is directly related to Pollyanna) crazy sometimes, because he equates this with negativity. (Never mind that Pollyanna is a fictional character... sometimes I suspect my hubby, with his obsessive focus on only the positive, is, too. He's even said he plans to donate his body to science fiction! So I rest my case!) My husband would always much rather focus only on the good, and leave the not-so-good unmentioned. He gets praised for his positive attitude all the time. Most of the time, we just don't see eye to eye on that. 
  But I'm thinking there's more merit to his way of seeing things, sometimes (And no, my dear husband, you may not record this on the calendar. That would be a negative thing to do. Just saying.)... If I'm being really honest with myself, I have to admit that sometimes the negative side of that "whole picture" equation seems much bigger than the positive side of it, especially when I'm feeling depressed and overwhelmed by the hardships with which I'm struggling. Those are the days when I may count my blessings but then immediately find fault with those blessings, "I'm thankful we own our own home, but this house is such a wreck and needs so much work to be a nice place to live!" or "I'm thankful for my four unique and generally awesome children, but they're driving me insane with tattling, petty bickering and making messes!" Hmm... doesn't really sound very thankful, does it? Let's try it again, "I'm thankful we own our own home, whose walls have enclosed much love and laughter," or "I'm thankful for my four unique and generally awesome children, who are always ready to give me hugs and share giggles over something goofy." Much better. Seems to me that when the equation has already been stacked towards the negative side by a sad sort of mood, perhaps that's when one ought to think only about the good side of the big picture, regardless of one's usual propensities and arguments in favor of such propensities. Then perhaps we can bounce back from those bad moods almost as fast as my daughter did on her sad day, after making her happy list.

"Father, thank you that there's always good news, something good to focus on, no matter how bad our temporary 'now' might be.  Thank you for showering us with so many blessings to sustain us through the hardships, and for always using those hardships to rain more blessings upon us, sometimes from unexpected sources. Help us to always keep our eye on those "whatevers" that are good to think about. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Writing to be suspended for a while...

Just an update that I will not be writing for a while, as I'm doing very poorly health-wise. I covet your prayers for healing and renewal. Thank you.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Testimony

“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables;
            “Though seeing, they do not see;
            Though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”                         
-Matthew 13:10-13

I grew up in a secular household, one in which my parents said we were Christians (as if this were an inherited trait like ethnicity), but spiritual matters were deemed too private to talk about, as much a taboo subject as politics, sex and money. The only time I stepped inside a church during my childhood was the rare occasion when a friend invited me to attend Sunday school with them, until I reached my teens, at which point I joined a church and was baptized without ever understanding what that was all about, just so I could be a member of the youth fellowship there. When the pastor asked me about accepting the Holy Ghost, I thought he was a little nuts! :-) So there I was, attending a church pretty regularly, but completely missing the whole message, because I was stuck in a belief that we got to heaven by being  good people. And I thought I was a pretty good person! So I didn't think of myself as a sinner, didn't see any need for repentance, and didn't know I needed saving. Those things were for the "real" sinners... You know, rapists, thieves, murderers, etc. But although I spent those years "not getting it", my late mother-in-law pointed out something very true... I WAS building a good foundation that would serve me well later, because one of the wonderful things about the youth group was that we did bible quiz competitions and we went to youth conferences in Green Lake, Wisconsin. I LOVED both of those!! I learned a LOT of scripture from both of those, too, especially having to memorize two different books of the gospels word... for... word. Including their scriptural "addresses"... You know, chapter and verse numbers. How on earth did I miss the message that we are all sinners and we all need Christ to save us?!? No clue. I can only guess that until you're truly ready to accept Christ, the bible is somewhat of a mystery, sort of like Jesus' explanation of teaching through parables... those who are wise understand, while those who are ignorant walk away clueless. I wasn't ready to be wise yet, I guess.

Fast forward a decade, after my life had hit rock bottom because I'd made a real mess of it all. I won't go into detail, but my mess included walking away from church when college convinced me it was all a myth anyway, fabricated to comfort the ignorant masses when they didn't have science to explain things; a failed marriage; "serial monogamy" with too many men due to trying to prove I was loveable, and always feeling less so with each one; growing health problems; depression; overworking; few REAL friendships; suffocating loneliness... Need I say more? I finally recognized that everything I did just made things worse, and as my current-and-for-life husband says, the first AND second rules to apply when you find yourself digging yourself into a hole is to stop digging and STOP DIGGING. So I did. And because I could see no other way out of it all, I cried out to the heavens, "IF there is a god out there, and IF you even care, please get me out of this mess I've made of my life, because I sure am doing a lousy job of it. I need help!"

And you know what? He honored that. Soon I found doors closing and other doors opening... MY plans went awry, but things started falling into place through no effort on my part, until I found myself in a life I never imagined I could have: remarried (this time to my best friend), living a few hundred miles away from where I had been, just starting over, and soon settling into a new job as full-time homemaker and mother. In the beginning, I didn't want to be 'conceited' enough to make the assumption that this was the God of the Bible answering my prayers just because that was the 'religion' I had some experience with, so I researched other religions, asking each time, "Is this You?" It didn't take me very long, though, to figure out that the God answering my prayers was doing so out of love, because I had absolutely NOTHING to offer Him, except myself, and I already knew that wasn't much, certainly not enough to 'pay' for all that I was receiving. That left only love as a viable motive for answering my prayers. And only one religion in the whole world is centered around a God of LOVE... Christianity. Sure enough, when I asked, "Is this You?" the answer I heard, as audibly as if Jesus were standing there in the flesh though I knew I wasn't hearing it with my ears at all, was "Yes. It is I."

I was hooked from then on... I believed unequivocally that there was indeed a God, and that He was the God of the Bible. But I still didn't know just WHO God was, not fully, because I still didn't understand anything about His nature, His persons, His commandments, or His gift of salvation. I still didn't know I was a sinner... sure, I'd made some mistakes, but other than making me feel soiled and used, I still considered myself a pretty good person. Especially since I blamed other people for most of those mistakes! Now, some people have insisted to me that God doesn't even hear your prayers until you're a true Believer, but my own experiences deny that. God meets us where we are. Granted, many prayers no doubt go unanswered in the uninitiated due to praying for things that go against His nature, His will, His plan, or are asked for the wrong reasons. That’s true of believers as well. But if answering our prayers that ARE in line with all that He is will draw us closer to Him, do you really think He's the sort of God to turn a deaf ear? Not me!

It took a few more years for me to learn what I was missing. Of all things, it took a cultist debating me about scripture! The cultist, of course, was trying to convert me to his religion, but it didn't work out that way. God used my argumentative nature to draw me into scripture, which I had found supremely boring and confusing prior to this... I read scripture to refute the cultist's interpretation of verses taken out of context. Among other things, the cultist was arguing that there is no hell, that people who aren't saved will simply cease to exist, and that only 144,000 souls out of all earth's history will be saved... all from this cult, of course. I totally confounded this man by pointing out that his cult already boasted more than 6 million members at that time, so obviously only a tiny fraction of them were going to be saved, and if the worst that was going to happen was that I'd cease to exist, then it pretty well argued in favor of doing whatever I wanted, didn't it? Poor man was reduced to insulting me because he had no rebuttal for that. LOL

A curious thing happened, though... the more I was reading Scripture in order to argue with this man, the more I wanted to read for myself. Finally the verse about thirsting after the Word like a hart thirsts for water made sense (Psalm 42:1-2). And oddly enough, it ALL made sense. It was as if someone had applied a de-coder to it, because I was suddenly SEEING whole passages that I had not noticed before, even amongst the two books I had once memorized (what a paradox!), and I finally read enough for the salvation message to click... I was a sinner that could not save myself, but I could accept Jesus, who was fully God, fully human, and still alive today (how had I ever missed THAT, as many Easter services as I had attended?!?)... I could accept Jesus as my Savior and King and be saved. I could ask the Holy Spirit to live in my heart and guide me daily. I could submit my will to that of my Father in Heaven. Oh, how I wanted that!!! But first I needed to repent, and for the first time in my life, I saw myself as I truly was... and I cried for three days. My poor husband thought I'd cracked and was having a nervous breakdown, because I could not stop crying and hanging my head in shame. But then, all cried out, I asked for forgiveness, and for salvation, and for a personal relationship with Jesus...

It changed me forever.

I still make mistakes, but they rarely go long before I'm prompted to repent and correct them. I still have serious health problems, but I have comfort in His companionship, draw strength from Him, and experience hope and JOY in spite of it all. I've grown more in the last ten years than I did in the first 3 decades, and He isn't finished with me yet.

Father, thank You so much for loving us! Thank You for providing a way for us to be in communion with You! Thank You, Jesus, for coming to save us! Thank You, Holy Spirit, for giving us guidance! Father, I pray that my testimony will touch a lost soul's heart, and plant the seed of desire to be one of Yours. I pray that there will be someone available to them to answer their questions and explain the salvation plan to them, me* if no other. Give them the courage to take that first step towards you, and may they be aware that You are there to meet even the smallest step. Thank You for the joy that abounds every time another soul is saved! Thank You... for everything... Amen.

*If you have questions about being saved, and don't know where to turn for help, feel free to send me a message, and I will assist any way I can. And certainly, if my testimony spurred you into accepting Christ, I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lemons and Lemonade

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel."                      Philippians 1:12

            People are funny about encountering matters of suffering and adversity in other people's lives. Some will shy away from any mention of it, quickly changing the subject to more mundane matters, as if fearful that even talking about it will prove to be contagious, bringing some vengeful spirit down upon their heads to heap a similar serving of adversity upon the listener. Some will grow uncomfortable, feeling helpless to say or do just the right thing to adequately express their sympathy, not realizing that all they really need to do is listen. A lot of them know someone who endured "exactly the same thing, except..." and the story soon wings away from the here and now to some often unrelated situation that doesn't really help much in the telling. A few callous sorts will hurry away at any sign of bad news because they don't want to be subjected to what they view as the hopeless drama of another's life, when they figure nothing like that will ever happen to them, when they're sure the hapless individuals involved likely brought the trouble down upon their own heads through their own acts of stupidity, carelessness or whatever. And there's the know-it-all that is only too happy to point out just exactly what acts of stupidity these individuals did to cause all this, and how they can go about making all their troubles go away, easier than reading a Dear Abby column in the newspaper. "Voila, troubles begone, nice and tidy, now let's talk about me!"

            On the other hand, people are just as funny about their own suffering and adversity! Some won't whisper a word of it, as if it were all a huge, shameful secret, and will try to keep up the stoic pretense that all is well, as if there's something noble about suffering in silence if you have to suffer at all. Some will holler and shout that the whole world is to blame, everyone except themselves in every regard, and demand that somebody- maybe God or maybe the government- do something about it while they sit and wait. Many will take charge and do everything they can to set things as right as they can, often while coercing everyone around them to take the same steps to avoid their woe, while others will be immobilized by shock, fear and a loss of hope. A few will obsess about their suffering to the point that they will insist on sharing every excruciating detail of it with anyone and everyone whose attention they can snare for even a moment. There's even some who wear their suffering like a badge of honor, bragging to anyone who dares tell them of their own adversity that they've had it much, much worse than anyone else- to the nth degree worse!- an odd sort of 'one-up-manship' if I do say so.

            I don't describe these types of people to mock or point fingers, mind you, because even while one finger is pointing outwards, at least three more are pointed right back at me! Yep... one or more of these scenarios has described me at one time or another. Maybe they have you, as well. Like I said, people are funny! We come with all sorts of quirks! One of the more admirable quirks is the ability to laugh at ourselves and find humor in life. But I digress...

            There are much better examples to which to aspire when it comes to dealing with adversity, ours or others'. Christ, of course, is the ultimate example. I don't think many of us will ever be subjected to the degree of suffering to which He was, but there is much to be learned from Him about dealing with any degree of adversity, just the same.  When it's others who are suffering, we can emulate His quiet compassion, powerful prayers of intercession, helping hands, and open arms. When we're the ones suffering, we can strive to keep the Father's will at the forefront while we submit to His plan, continue to make time to pray, reach out to other's amongst believers (as when Jesus asked some of His disciples to join Him in the garden, even if they didn't do such a good job of it), and forgive others for their hand in our suffering. I'm sure there are many other traits we can strive to carry away with us from Jesus' example. But I'm not prepared to get into an exhaustive study of that at this time, not when Jesus Himself seems to me, at least, such a lofty example to follow, when I'm but merely a fallen, totally fallible human being in, what often feels to me, a particularly broken state.

            Instead, I wanted to point out the attitude seen in Paul, who delighted in his suffering while he was in prison, because, as he says in Philippians 1:12, everything that happened to him really served to advance the gospel... Wow. He was in prison, because there were Jews in Jerusalem who wanted him dead for preaching the gospel, and he had been transported to Rome to be tried before Caesar. There, he took the opportunity to preach the gospel to the prison officials, guards and other prisoners, thus extending the reach of the good news even further. Paul took lemons and made lemonade, as the popular saying goes... Now there's a do-able attitude that I can carry away with me! Instead of throwing myself pity parties over my adversities, I want to be able to find joy in suffering because I've been able to turn it around to serving God in some small but significant way. Instead of being locked in fear of further adversity, I want to be bold about doing whatever I can to advance the gospel, then seeing the suffering as proof of my effective efforts. Instead of leaving prison doors locked tight, I want to do my part to throw them wide open in every way that really counts, for everyone, for we're all suffering here.

            Now... who wants to join me for a glass of lemonade? :-)

            Father, thank you so much for caring about all our sorrows, and for showing us how to deal with them. Thank you for throwing open the prison doors of sin, setting us free with Your Good News! Show us how to be more compassionate towards our fellow sufferers, how to handle our own adversities with grace, and how to use all of it to advance the gospel. In Jesus' name, amen.

*The above was published in the July/August 2010 issue of The Encourager, a newsletter "written to encourage and inspire those living with chronic illnesses by guest writers and those who have learned their physical weaknesses allow God to reveal His strength and power." For more information about subscribing to the newsletter, or contributing as a writer, contact me via the comments field, and I'll give you the editor's contact info.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Excuses, Excuses!

Note: The following is one of those pieces that was started and then sat unfinished due to the writer's block mentioned in "Heart for People". It feels good to finally finish it. :-)

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.        -Romans 12:11

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.        -1 Peter 4:10

    Judging by the desperate pleas for volunteers for various ministries within the churches, and the way it's so often the same faces serving in the same capacity with a pretty high predictability, I think it's probably safe to say that many of us have been guilty at one time or another of making excuses to not participate in some sort of ministry or answer the nudge of the Holy Spirit to do something for the Lord. I'm not talking about excusing oneself from one noble cause for the sake of a higher calling here. I'm talking about avoiding ministry altogether because we're too busy, too tired, too poor, or any number of other superlatives that crop up in human life. And I think we can all recognize them as rather poor excuses when we take the time to really look at them, since they're often the result of placing our priorities in the wrong order, and deep down, we know that... For these are the very excuses that often leave us feeling guilty or defensive even as we're uttering them and backing away while glancing frantically at our watches and then pretending we see someone we were supposed to be meeting over the shoulder of the person doing the asking and beating a hasty retreat. Not pointing any fingers, mind you... I'm guilty too. Just sayin'.

     But there's one excuse that I recently recognized in my own life that on the surface looked mighty alright... Are you ready?

    "I want to give my best to the Lord, and right now I can't live up to my best."

    WHOOOIIIIEEE!! That sure sounds like a doozy of an excuse, doesn't it?!?

     Too bad it's no good! That's right! No good! It's just plain old procrastination and laziness dressed up in cheap gold paint! My oh my... I've got a sneaky little heart, don't I?!? (embarrassed giggle) I almost got away with that one, too! Fortunately God was persistently whispering in my ear, revealing it for what it was!

    So what's wrong with it? Well... We all have days in which we're unable to meet our ideal standards, and in fact, I believe that the majority of our days are like that!  In my case, it's poor health that has always seemed to stop me, but I can easily imagine someone with financial trouble or someone who's working two jobs using that same excuse. "Maybe when things are better, I can do something for ministry, but right now I just don't have anything worthy to offer."  Have you ever said that? But difficulties didn't stop Mother Theresa, did it? (What, you think she never had any problems?) And it doesn't seem to be stopping those predictable faces you always see serving in the church, does it? (Everybody suffers from some sort of hardship!)

    Waiting until we can do our best sounds like a noble plan, until you consider that the Lord wants the best we have to offer today- no matter how little that may seem to us- not the best we can offer someday. After all, that "someday" may never come! Take the story of the widow who gave two copper coins to the temple (Luke 21:1-4). Sure doesn't seem like much, but it was the best she had to give that day, all she had to give that day, and God knew it, and found her offering of greater value than the larger, but spiritually paltry and relatively insignificant, portion that wealthier people gave of their possessions. The same standard applies to every aspect of our lives today. We may not be able to give what we think we ought, but we should give whatever we have, with a cheerful heart, for today. If we're too ill to go out and serve in a physical capacity, then we can spend time in prayer for everyone we know who is in need of the Lord's intervention. We need only be conscious to do that! If we really are too poor to give much to charity, we can give what we can, be it a few coins like the widow, or some of our time. If we're so busy that we don't have time to turn around despite examining our priorities, we can offer encouraging words to anyone we encounter who may need it. Regardless of our circumstances, there are always opportunities to use our gifts and blessings to serve others, always some way we can give something back to the Lord, to give our best for the day, even if it seems paltry compared to what someone else is able to give. All summed up, you'll still be giving more to Him than if you "wait for a better day." And while it might not seem like much of an offering to us, for someone else, it could mean everything.

Father, forgive us our excuses for not serving You through serving others, for being so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss the opportunities to do some good in Your name. Thank You for taking our small efforts and making them into something much bigger and better when we do serve! Open the eyes of our hearts to yet more ways that we may serve You, no matter what the circumstances of our lives are, and give us the encouragement we need to keep giving You the best that we have for today, and guide us towards being able to give You even better for tomorrow. And Lord, bless those who have been selflessly serving you while the rest of us have been making excuses! In Jesus' name, amen.

A Heart for People

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' -Matthew 22:37-38

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

I've had a serious writer's block going, and it's been going for quite a while. I knew exactly when it started, and even had an inkling why, but didn't quite know from where the source of it was springing.

It started around the time of the election that disappointed and, quite honestly, even scared me, though I'm not going to get into political hot topics right now. That was part of it, but it was more the behavior of people I was observing on the news and interacting with directly, in
response to the election that really got to me and shut down my "muse", so to speak... Sickened and saddened me to the point that I just felt I had nothing to say for a while.

Eventually I was able to write
something, but only when I got angry about a gross injustice within the Carepage community, where I maintain a page for my health issues. The result of that was "Sin Diagnosis". After I got that out of my system, again I found myself with nothing to say. A friend even gently approached me to inquire as to whether I'd lost my faith, because I hadn't been writing. No... that's remained strong throughout.

After a while, I found myself wanting to write again, to write about what God has been teaching me, and I made a lot of false starts, but just couldn't seem to stick with it and finish anything. My heart wasn't in it. Not really. Because there was this disgruntled feeling inside that I just couldn't get rid of. It didn't help that within my personal life, I was struggling something awful with my health, and feeling like I was doing it all alone. Though we're encouraged to help one another, there just never seems to be anybody near, able and willing to provide any help for me. And I felt discouraged and very lonely.

And it didn't help that, as society continued its decline from bad to worse, going out in public became increasingly unpleasant. Despite police efforts to combat it, road rage continues to get worse, until even driving to the local grocery store sometimes feels like a big risk. And it's getting harder to find anybody who will return a smile and a friendly 'hello', so that sometimes I feel downright invisible because of the lack of response my smiles are getting! Within the stores, people are just pushing their carts around with scowls on their faces, quickly expressing exasperation for people encroaching on
their "personal space." An older couple stopped their cart rather than go around my son, who just happened to be in their path and was picking up something he'd dropped before rejoining me, and they turned to glare at me, hands on hips, as if I had no business bringing children into a grocery store. And on another occasion in a different sort of store, a young woman took her frustrations out on my husband, simply because he was "in her way" while he was perusing the shelves looking for a birthday gift for our youngest child. He hadn't even been aware she was there, until she loudly sighed, and he promptly apologized and stepped out of her way, only to be called a foul name in response! This sort of unwarranted rudeness just seems to be skyrocketing lately, in our experience. It's very discouraging. And doesn't do much to make me feel any love for my fellow humans.

And therein lies the crux... I hadn't lost my heart for
God. I'd lost my heart for people! I was feeling no love for these people who were doing nothing to deserve any, never mind that it's often those who least deserve love who most need it demonstrated to them. I'd grown weary of doing good, and wanted nothing to do with anybody who might take and then give nothing in return. And THAT was stopping up my desire to write, which is definitely a labor of love that doesn't really yield much tangible reward. Praise God that He always loves us faithfully! Praise God that when you realize your well of love is empty, and ask Him to fill it, He does so abundantly! Asking Him to fill you with His love for others, whether it be for one particular difficult person, or the general mass of mankind, always works! And because His love for people is once again flowing through me, so again are my words flowing out into cyberspace.

Father, thank you so much for Your unfailing love, given freely to us all, though we are undeserving and so often fail to return any love to You. And thank you, Father, for being so generous in sharing that love with us, just for the asking! Help us to apply that where ever there is a need in our lives, where ever there are people that we are having trouble loving. Turn us into veritable fountains of Christ's love, splashing it forth on all around us, luring the lost towards You, and shining a ray of hope into the darkness of this fallen world. In Jesus' name, amen.

P.S. Despite the event that triggered "Sin Diagnosis", www.carepages.com is a terrific place to go to set up a page to keep your family and friends apprised of medical situations, including pregnancies. And it's free!