Friday, March 24, 2017

Seasons Change...and So Does Life

You know how it is. You bump shoulders everyday with people who ask, "How are you?" If you are like most of us, you lie and answer "Fine." Fine. Fine? What does that even mean?

"I am well."

"I am happy."

"I am hurting."

All of these responses are telling, but fine -- what does that really mean?

I've struggled the past couple of months with this question. Fine just doesn't answer the question for me anymore, and yet most people aren't really interested in my life, they are just being polite.  So....I have begun to answer saying, "Life has been tough, but spring has begun, and we are leaving winter behind."

Winter was filled with injury, physical sickness, and death. Jeff fell hiking on the A.T. and tore his patella tendon and had to have extensive surgery. Jorjanne and I both suffered from illness. One of my closest friend's lost her mom and then Jeff's mom passed away as well. Winter brought great pain -- both physical and emotional. Winter was bleak; it was a time of darkness...but praise be to God that spring has come!

As we look forward to the warm temperatures and specks of color to dot the landscape, we know that spring is not possible without winter. Without death, there is no life. Unless a seed dies, new growth does not occur. The same is true spiritually. Apart from the death of Christ, eternal life is not possible.

As I enter this new season, I am grateful that seasons change. The pain of today does not imply pain for tomorrow. The heartache from grief, though raw in winter, will eventually give way to healing.

James tells us to "Consider it pure joy when we encounter various trials." May we learn to choose joy!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ascending in Prayer

This week I was reminded that apart from God everything is vanity. I can achieve intellectual pursuits, gain the world's riches, and obtain fame and notoriety but in the end they all lead to emptiness and vanity. Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, knew this all too well and said the ultimate purpose in life is to fear God and obey his commandments.

Paul challenged the great thinkers of his day in Acts 17. These men were great thinkers and were highly respected and yet they "didn't get it." Paul told them that God created all things so that people would search for God "and perhaps grope for him and find him" (NRSV). Knowing God brings indescribable fulfillment.

In my devotion this morning I read William Law's definition of prayer as "the rising of the soul out of the the vanity of time into the riches of eternity."

If life apart from God is in vain, then shouldn't we take every opportunity to draw closer to him. Too often our emotions keep us from God as we just don't feel like praying. Perhaps our intellect, too, keeps us from calling out to him in prayer. We mistakenly believe that God isn't listening or doesn't care enough to answer us so we cease to reach out to him. Ultimately, it is our will that determines our actions...will we be faithful to rise above the vanity on earth and reach into the riches of eternity with prayer even when we don't have "the want to"?

A dear friend was widowed for the second time in six years this month. There are nine children. Let that sit with you for a minute. How dare we get so caught up in the mundane things of life that we fail to cry out to God on behalf of our brothers and sisters like her who are suffering intense pain?

I am asking God to give me a renewed passion for prayer. May it be like air to my lungs. May I not settle for vanity on earth but strive daily to fear God and obey him. Will you join me in this journey?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A New Twist on Valentine's Day

Each year I hear people bemoaning Valentine's Day (aka Single Awareness Day). Some feel jipped because they don't have anyone special with whom to celebrate. Others are grieving the loss of their Valentine to either death or to break up. The sad truth is that for millions of people, Valentine's Day is a day of great sadness and disappointment.

My question is "Why?" How did we get to a place where it is not only culturally acceptable, but culturally expected to elevate romantic love to a status above all other forms of love? Culture teaches that romantic love is to be sought after above all else.

What if instead of focusing on our relational status on Valentine's Day, we looked for practical ways to show love to others. A widow recently shared with a group of us how tough Valentine's Day is for her because her husband always spoiled her...my heart hurt at her declaration. To my surprise, not one, not two, but several of the people with me that day were moved to action. They sought out practical ways to express love to this precious woman on Valentine's Day.

Can you imagine the difference we could make if we were intentional about blessing others on Valentine's Day? I'm not suggesting couples neglect each other, but I am suggesting that instead of being self-focused we become other-aware.  Will you make a commitment today to be a blessing to some unsuspecting person next year on Valentine's Day?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Live Love

Little did I know when I chose to pray Isaiah 26:3 for my family this year, the need we would have for the Lord's peace. Just two weeks after I wrote that post, Jeff fell hiking the Appalachian Trail and injured his knee. I was over an hour away. My heart threatened to leap out of my throat as I fought back the tears and wrestled to remain calm so that I could figure out what to do. Friends came to his rescue and long story short....Jeff tore his patella tendon and had emergency surgery to repair it and to reconnect his knee cap.

I have to brag on my man for a minute and say I have been astounded by his optimistic outlook and his positive attitude post-surgery. I was prepared for an ill-tempered brute who would dictate multiple demands, but instead I've been pleasantly surprised to see my laid-back prince of a guy continue to act loving and kind in the midst of his pain.

For this I am thankful. My heart is heavy tonight as I write because one of my dearest friends is learning to say goodbye to her mom. While women across the nation march for women's rights, I have witnessed a remarkable woman fight for her life. Politics tend to bring division and strife...days like today remind me of what really matters -- people.

Whether you are compelled to protest in the streets or to make your opinions known on social, I pray that you will do so with love. The catch phrase seems to be LOVE NOT HATE. This begins in the heart of each one of us. How are you treating those who are different from you? How about those whose beliefs conflict with your own? Are you able to love despite these challenges? Jesus said the world would know we are his children by our love. Sadly, I wonder how we are doing in that department.

Today I have witnessed tremendous love as I've seen the Body of Christ come together to honor a remarkable woman of God and to comfort her daughter. I challenge you to look at the hurting people around you...find ways to demonstrate love to them today. Don't just preach love -- live love.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Prayer for My Family in 2017

I asked the Lord to show me a verse to pray over my family for 2017 and I want to share it with you. I believe He led me to Isaiah 26:3 which says,

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."

Father,
I pray that you would help us to keep our minds set on you; remove any impure thoughts that prevent us from seeing and hearing you. Help us to trust in you no matter the circumstances. Give us the peace that surpasses understanding as we seek to know you more this year than we have in the past. May our home be a place of peace and may all who enter experience the peace that comes from knowing you. As we strive to know you more, may others be drawn to you through your work in our lives to transform us into your image. 
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Is there a passage God is calling you to pray over your life or your family this year? If so, I'd love for you to share it with me so I can pray for your family as well.