yes, blessed! but what now?

As we approach the Thanksgiving holidays this week, my heart is unsettled. With so much to do, here I am sitting down to write a blogpost right in the middle of the craziest day. Maybe writing it down will get it off my heart and help me to put into action some of the weightiness.

I try to spend time in the Word and pray as often as I can, but I’ve come up short lately. I’m full of radical life-changing truths that (if I were to put into practice) could change the world, or at least my little part of it. I get all filled with practical spiritual Truth and then don’t pour out those life lessons and truths the way I have been poured into. One thing I am pretty clear on at this juncture in my life: We are blessed with gifts to bless others. As we approach Thanksgiving this week, we are mindful of all our blessings but then what? What to do with them? What is our reasonable response? Being grateful is only a part of the next step. Truth is, there’s little satisfaction in the material end of life, and many of us think we’re going to find happiness if only we had ___. I’ve been given a lot materially and I am grateful, but I am acutely aware that, though it makes daily living less of a struggle, it falls fall short of satisfaction. Consequently, my love language is quality time spent with loved ones, and ironically, that is the place in my life where I am poor. I have learned a little trick to alleviate some of my neediness. I give “time” to others. I meet them for lunch, offer to pick up something at the store for them, or put together a few family meals to share. We can be ridiculously wealthy in so many ways, whether it’s time, talent, or treasure—but until we give it away, those treasures seem vainly empty.

(John 21) “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Lord, Help us not to be spiritual gluttons indulging on all the fat for ourselves, eating and soaking up but never feeding. As we approach this season when Love Himself entered our world, help us to focus more on the needs of others, the hunger, whatever that looks like, in others more than ourselves.

Are you looking for purpose in your life? Maybe for “what you want to do when you grow up? How about loving others better, more purely, more like the way He loves us? Here’s the thing: We are grown up; the time is now and the sheep are desperately hungry.

Wishing for you Thanksgiving Blessings and the Grace to share them.

new toys

One of my New Year plans (note *no* sign of the failure word, “resolutions”) is to be more efficient. Part of that plan is to implement a system using a few new tech tools and a book I discovered that most of America already knows about, apparently, since it is all over the internet with marketing tools for the organizing system it describes. The biggest challenge has been to transfer my calendar to a Blackberry. I have a love-hate relationship with cell phones but have decided one good phone might be better than one that doesn’t work half the time. So, my calendar and my email, my task list and grocery lists are all in one place.

The other new toy I have loved is the Amazon Kindle. It is an electronic reader that also stores PDF files. With a SanDisk memory card, it holds countless Word docs and even music (though I am not surrendering my iPod.) The cool thing about this thing is it holds LOTS of books all in one place and has a downloading feature that works virtually anywhere. I have several  translations of the Bible, and my chronological reading calendar with me all the time now. I have books I am reading. And I have current newspapers downloaded at the push of a button. Unfortunately, there are still books that have not been electronically embedded, but the selection is still enough to keep me busy for a long time. I found a leather case for the Kindle that also has a notepad and pen. So, I have discovered serious convenience all in the size of one small book.

And finally, I am implementing the system found in the book, Getting Things Done, by David Allen which you can find in an Acrobat file for free HERE. It is a different approach to organizing thoughts and “to do” lists that take up creative energy and keep you from having a reminder system going on in your brain at 2 a.m. So, it’s only January 9, and I am not up to speed on any of the three tools, with lots to do to make this system work for me, but I will keep you posted on how it’s going. So far, I love having my calendar at my fingertips. I hate having email pop in all the time because I am distracted to no end. And I love having good reading material with me. So, another love hate relationship with technology has sparked, but it’s an honest attempt at improvement.  How do you keep your calendar and project lists organized? Or do you find like me that you have old projects that you never seem to get to?

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a word of encouragement

USA-POLITICS/Since the Republican National Convention, I can’t get one little snapshot out of my mind and I want to explore it a little. I still don’t know quite what to make of it, but it speaks volumes of our culture, our nature as women, and how we support and encourage women differently than men. Before you think I’m about to launch a sexism rampage, I assure you I won’t.  It just strikes me as incongruent yet perfectly appropriate.

Chuck and Ruth Heath were at the Republican National Convention in proud support of their daughter as the Republican VP candidate. As the striking Sarah Palin was introduced and took the speaker’s podium, the crowd roared. The camera panned back to Chuck and Ruth just in time to catch Sarah’s mother say to her husband, “She looks beautiful.” It was her way of saying, “I am so proud of my daughter in this surreal moment.”  She is a stunning woman, but Republican Conventionbeautiful in this case was much more. Beautiful encapsulated the sheer awe and joy and pride many felt as they witnessed the historic moment. Just for a second, I saw an incongruence of what a compliment for a woman and what a compliment for a man looks like. If Senator Obama’s parents or his grandmother were captured in the same moment, I wonder what they would have said to each other. “That’s my son!” Or maybe “I’m so proud of him.” I don’t know. What is the difference between a compliment for a Christian versus a non-Christian? Do they or should they look different? Today, I had the highest compliment I think I could receive when a friend said that I had the presence of the Holy Spirit clearly with me. I know when I do and when I don’t, and today, I didn’t feel Him much, but it reminded me that He was ever before me waiting to place His mantel of love upon me, and it made me smile in my acknowledgment to receive Him again. What do you consider the highest compliment? I know we are not to draw our praise from men, but we do need to encourage one another in sincerity and in love.

What causes you to smile when someone says an encouraging word? What do you need to hear today from your loving God? My prayer is that He will show Himself mighty to fill your every need.

lessons from war

Earlier this week, a friend and I were discussing the general state of the nation, the economy, and the upcoming election. We both had a heavy spirit over the uncertainty of our times. It still amazes me when God confirms in our hearts that our feelings are valid and shows us what to do. This conversation was no exception. We met deliberately to try to sort out some of these feelings. God showed up and guided us to some wisdom that almost immediately lifted our spirits.

We started talking about where God had taken us in His Word this week. I told her about my Wednesday Bible study lesson where depression had overtaken Elijah after God had given him victory over the 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah got depressed. There are many among that list including King David, Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther. That tells me that even Christian giants get unmotivated, downcast, and tired of it all, at times. Anyway, my friend took me to Second Chronicles where she found some good advice for defeating a vast army. We both agreed it felt like we are facing a huge battle, so this felt very applicable. When we are facing a big adversary, there are things we should do that we learn from King Jehoshaphat. I’ll let you read the story but here’s what we noticed: (2 Chronicles 20)

1.       Pray. (v. 3)

2.      Call a fast and seek the Lord together, believing on His Name. (v. 4)

3.      Cry out to Him in your affliction and He will hear and save. (v. 9)

4.      Stand before the Lord and wait for His response. (v. 13)

5.      Fall to the ground and worship in His presence. (v. 18)

6.      Praise Him with a very loud voice. (v. 19)

7.      Listen. Believe in the Lord your God. Remain steadfast.(v. 20)

8.     Let your praise go out before you, giving thanks before the victory is won. (v. 21)

9.      The battle is the Lord’s. (v. 27)

10.   Rejoice!

There are some very atypical things about this battle. Ordinarily, you’d put your best soldiers in the front, but Jehoshaphat appointed the Praise Team in the front to go out singing, for he knew the battle had already been won. They fought not with the armor and swords of men but with the artillery of the Lord. And God delivered unto them that day a victory that would have been an impossible feat for man.

For our situation, we agreed that He is calling us to draw nearer, to pray harder, and to fast in some way. In so doing, we find our peace, our victory in Him.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly for that feeling of depression to lift,  Isaiah 61:3 reminds us to put on a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, like a coat, like a shirt. We are to sing or turn on the music and praise Him right now. We do not live in defeat as Christians. It is impossible. Start praising Him today even before the victory. The victory is ours, no matter what. He died for it. It’s already signed sealed and delivered to His Hands.

a lifetime

Have you ever wondered if something that that was very good most of the time was invalidated because it ended badly? I have two friends who are going through a very rough time right now as a major part of their lives changes. One is facing a time in her marriage of thirty-three years where she’s not sure there will be thirty-four. They have grown children and have made a good life together, but times are hard right now. My other friend has had to give up her home of thirty-three years, her very successful ministry in another place, many friends, and the security that being in one place gives. Both have lost almost more than you think a person can bear. But here, at the end of the day, they both ask was it all for naught? Was any of it good because it has ended so hard?

As I was praying for them, I had a word that comforted, if not for them, it certainly was for me. I asked the Lord why it has to be so hard? How could they have to give so much right now to just keep their heads above water? Why would they feel everything in all those years was in vain? And Jesus spoke to my heart. “I lived thirty-three years on earth, and lots of it was very good. There were some awful things that happened, and by some’s standards, it ended badly. Do you think I thought it wasn’t worth it? Just because it looked like it ended badly, it was not in vain.”

The worst day of Christ’s life on earth was the best day for each of us who are in Him. It was the day our salvation was secured in Him. God can turn those things around. The paradox for the Christian  is the things that hurt so badly God uses for good. The things that we believe will kill us end up being the very things that can open to us true Life. And, thirty-three years were not in vain.