Posted in Faith, Mental health

Work, Trade, and Purpose

In the evenings, my husband and I usually watch TV shows together. We’ve gone through “The Office” a few times; we’ve watched lots of “Star Trek”; we I watched “Anne With an E” (my husband distracted himself with his phone during this one); we’ve watched all of “This is Us”; and recently, we attempted “Grey’s Anatomy” but gave up on it when we got tired of fast-forwarding nearly entire episodes to avoid the sexual content. Anyway, the show we are watching now is “The Chosen.” You may have heard of it – it tells the story of Jesus from the perspective of surrounding characters. It preserves the biblical account, but with lots of artistic imagination about how the events may have interacted and worked themselves out. One thing I love about the show is how it reminds me that the people of the Bible were real people. They joked around; they got into trouble. Jesus camped. (For some reason, that’s something I hadn’t thought of before.) You know all that time He spent travelling, or in the wilderness? Don’t you think He would have set up a tent and made a fire?

In an episode we watched recently, Jesus is on one such “camping” excursion, when He is discovered by a group of children, who (quite expectedly) cannot keep themselves away from this fascinating, funny, kind, and wise man. As they gather around Him, chatting and listening to His words, He gets them to help with His work. He is making things out of wood – spoons, locks, toys, and who knows what – and they help with whatever menial tasks they can do. He explains to them that He has a “trade,” but He also has a job much bigger than His trade. He doesn’t really say what it is, but we now know that He became the sacrifice to pay for all sin. So that God can be reconciled to humans, so that we can be part of His family. That was His over-arching purpose.

Nonetheless, I was perplexed at how happily and busily Jesus and the children worked with their hands, while discussing all sorts of other things. It got me thinking about this idea of a “trade,” one’s “work,” and how it relates to one’s overall “purpose.” It is something that has always been of dear importance to me, since I was a child, and was one of the most troubling things about making the decision to stay home with my kids. What is my trade? What is my purpose? There was a time when I thought the answer to both of those questions was “music therapy.” Now, I usually don’t know what to think.

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Maybe, because it discusses in depth these very same issues. So I went back to re-read it this morning, and the following two verses stopped me:

“My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NIV

In these verses, Solomon says that all of his work – though it felt rewarding for him to do – was meaningless, and nothing was gained by it. I’m sure we have all, at some point, reached the end of a long work day and thought something similar. Perhaps this realization is even more distressing when we’re under the belief that work is the main part of life. Which is what I thought for a long time, until having children taught me the opposite. Because if my kids are not distracting me from the work I think I should be doing, they are creating all kinds of additional work that I didn’t originally want. And yet, they, and all of my time that they use up, are of immense importance. I know it in my bones.

Because although my trade may be homemaking, writing, music therapy, or teaching piano; I also have a job – a mission, if you will – that is much larger. It’s simple, because it’s the same one Jesus had; the same one we’re all supposed to have. Like Jesus, my over-arching purpose is family. My own nuclear family, and the wider family of God. To love them; to serve them; to figure out how to be (and stay) in healthy relationships with them. This must be why Jesus said, “‘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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

But what of the “trade”? Is it unimportant or bad? If it were, why would Jesus have worked as a carpenter? Why would Paul have made tents?

Is this a good mantra for life?

We need our trade. Work is a basic human need, right up there alongside food, which is why I think Paul cautioned that “[t]he one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV).

In light of all of this, here are the observations that I glean about the nature of our “trade” during our lives here on earth:

  1. My trade is not the main part of my life. Without an over-arching purpose to go along with it, the work of my trade is meaningless.
  2. My trade is still important. It is a gift of God, and a privilege by His grace, to fill my basic human needs. It is also rewarding, in and of itself.
  3. My trade is enough. I doubt that, as Jesus worked as a carpenter, He beat Himself up about why He wasn’t building something larger or more important. I doubt that either He or Paul lamented having to work with their hands when they were actually gifted teachers. “All in good time,” as they say, or, more accurately – “All in God’s time.” We absolutely will fulfill our over-arching purpose in our lifetime, if only our hearts are willing. The results, however, are up to God.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I am so sorry for getting this whole idea of work wrong. I love that you have given me both a trade, and an over-arching purpose, and I thank you for them both. I ask that you would enable me to be both content with, and dedicated to, the things that you have given me to do. May I not become lazy or negative, in neglect of my trade. And, may I not neglect my true purpose, which is family – both mine and yours – in favor of my trade. Amen.

How do you understand the nature of work, trade, and/or purpose? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

“A Beast of Burden”

“How are everyone’s devotions going?” I asked a few friends several weeks ago, during one of the precious few in-person meetings we’ve been permitted to have, since…you know.

The room fell silent. Some women looked away. Others slowly shook their heads. I felt bad for asking.

Years ago I heard Joyce Meyer talk about spending daily time with God. With reference to busy mothers, she had asked in her typically pointed way (which I love) – “Well, what can you do? Lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes to pray, if you have to.”

This simple statement has motivated me when ‘quiet time’ is virtually impossible. A few months ago, I re-evaluated my devotional plan. At the time, I had been reading through Ezekiel. But when circumstances dictated that both children be home full time, and supervision of school work was added to my list of responsibilities, Ezekiel felt like a little more than I could handle. I wasn’t looking forward to my devotions any longer, and began to avoid doing them.

So I decided to take a break from Ezekiel for a while and go directly to the source: the words of Jesus Himself. I found a long stretch of red letter text in Matthew 5 (the Sermon on the Mount), and began to read it very slowly. I sampled different translations, and found that they added layers of meaning to the text. Since translation is not always a straight-forward process, and words are tied to the history and culture in which they are used, different versions of the Bible can relay varying aspects of what was originally meant.

Recently, I stumbled upon a verse that grabbed me in a new way because of one such alternate wording. In Matthew 21, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem shortly before His death and resurrection (otherwise known as the “Triumphal Entry”) is documented. There, I read a verse that has become quite familiar to me in NIV:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” Matthew 21:5 NIV

However, here it is, in ESV:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” Matthew 21:5 ESV

A beast of burden! The CJB (Complete Jewish Bible) translates it the same way. A quick perusal of Britannica.com informed me that this is a common term of reference for a ‘pack animal.’ Donkeys, in particular, have been used for bearing loads for as long as six thousand years. According to Britannica: “In many places in the world, the use of pack animals is the only feasible means of transporting a load.” Donkeys “are surefooted and can carry heavy loads over rough terrain.” And where horses cannot survive, or people are too impoverished to own them, “donkeys are the main beasts of burden and source of transportation.”

Surefooted. Carrying heavy loads over rough terrain. Able to survive where horses cannot. Available to people who are poor. Transporting from one place to the next.

The only feasible means.

Could there be a better way to describe the Savior Himself?

Jesus’s association with this animal was not a coincidence. He had specifically sent His disciples to fetch the donkey from a complete stranger, knowing in advance that it would be there, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

And like the donkey, our Lord is humble and gentle. Like the donkey, He bears the loads that are too heavy for us to carry, and He does so without complaint. Like the donkey, He is essential – especially, to those who are poor.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3 NIV

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 NIV

I wonder how much easier it would be to spend time with Jesus daily, if we remembered that He is willing and able to bear the heavy loads we carry, over the rough terrain of our lives. That He is the only means of transportation – from one season of life to another, and from this life to the next.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”

Psalm 68:19 NIV

What burdens can I give to the Lord today?

The burden of worry. That my life, and those of my family members, won’t turn out alright.

The burden of control. He is God. I am not.

The burden of feeling unloved. He made me, and knows and loves every intricacy of my being.

The burden of this day. I am not alone. He is with me in every task. He leads and directs me.

I invite you to spend some time with Jesus, and allow Him to hold your heaviest troubles. Which burdens will you give to Him? If you would like to share about it, comment below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

Ask, Seek, Knock

I’ve been looking at my phone more than ever lately.  Times of upheaval and change call for desperate measures.  Like reading news stories, compulsively searching job ads, grasping at deals on local used items, and researching government programs.

I’m kidding, of course.  But those are precisely the things I’ve found myself doing.  I feel a course adjustment in the works but I don’t know which direction to take, or where it will lead us.  And I’m afraid.

And the words ring through my mind: “ask, seek, knock.” Ask…Google?  Seek…the guidance of website, after website, after website.  Knock on the screen of my phone.  Tink, tink, tink.

But nobody’s listening.  There’s no one there.  There are no answers, no solutions.  (I guess Google just doesn’t get me.)

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“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:10 NIV

In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus is teaching about prayer.  He describes two vignettes.  One is of a person knocking on his friend’s door late at night, asking for food to help feed an unexpected house guest.  His friend, at first, declines to help.  But because the person keeps knocking, he gives in and helps the poor guy out.

The second example is of a father with his child.  Jesus explains that even earthly fathers will normally feed their children when they are hungry.  A good father will not give his child something damaging, like a snake, or pointless, like a rock, when what the child needs is good, wholesome food.

In the past when I have read the first scenario, the message seemed to be: if you’re really annoying and keep begging God for what you want, eventually, He’ll give in.  At least, that is the impression given by the New International Version:

“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
Luke 11:5‭-‬8 NIV

I do believe that persistent prayer is of value for the purposes of developing and nurturing a relationship with God, and allowing Him to shape me and my requests.  Maybe sometimes, there are even forces at play in the spiritual realm, that I need to persist in praying through.  But…really?  Does He give in out of annoyance?  Is He waiting for me to impress Him?  To beg, or show off, or ask a certain number of times?  There must be more to the picture than that.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

So let’s imagine Jesus with us.  Let’s put ourselves in that little circle of disciples, hungry for His guidance on prayer.  And let us listen to how He begins His sentence.  First, the King James version:

“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?”
Luke 11:5‭-‬6 KJV

And then, the English Standard Version:

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?”
Luke 11:5‭-‬7 ESV

Do you see the question mark at the end of the passage, that was removed in the NIV version?  Notice, that Jesus is phrasing the scenario as a question.  He says, “Which of you?” Or in other words, who has this ever happened to?  Who has a friend like this, who wouldn’t even get out of bed to help?  If even he will finally help if you keep asking, imagine how your Father in Heaven will respond!  Will He give you snakes and stones to eat?  No, no…He’s better than all of that.

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Photo by Patricia McCarty from Pexels

This is where I had a little help from an online commentary on the passage.  Elisabeth Johnson of workingpreacher.org writes:

“Hearers today might empathize with the woken-up friend and think that the midnight caller is pushing the limits of friendship.  But in the culture of the biblical world, it is the woken-up friend who is behaving badly.  The ability of his friend to provide hospitality, and thus his honor, is at stake.”

She goes on to say:

“Jesus’ parable implies that if it is so among friends with their mixed motives and self-interest, how much more so with God who wants to give us what is good and life-giving, and who is invested in keeping God’s name holy.”

How much more so.  How much more so!  With God, than with human friends, who may be unreliable.  Or even than with a human father, who may disappoint, ignore, or hurt his children.  How much more so, will our loving God hear, and answer, and fill our prayers.  The first time.  The second time.  The third, the fourth, the fifth, AND the sixth.

Every.  Single.  Time.  He’s not waiting until we get to 100 repetitions in order to listen.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13 ESV

I don’t know about you.  But I can’t spend hours praying about each item on my list.  (Sometimes, I do.)  But other times, it’s just a quick sentence under my breath.  Or even, a thought.  What my pastor calls “dart prayers”:  “Lord, I give this to you.”  “I put this in your hands.”  “Lord, please bring resolution.”  “Oh God…HELP!” 

“Dart prayers” such as these may not cultivate a rich, fulfilling prayer life.  But I don’t think that God listens to them any less.

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Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

In summation, I believe that the thrust of Jesus’ teaching in this passage from Luke is:

Rest assured.

When you hear no answers, rest assured.  You are heard.  The Lord is better than a sleepy friend or an imperfect parent.  If you ask, seek, and knock…you will receive, find, and walk through.  Maybe it will take longer than you like.  Maybe what you’re asking for is no better for you than a rock or a snake, and one day you’ll be glad the answer was no.  Maybe, there’s an angle to your story that He sees, that you cannot.  Maybe, He’s helping you get down to the heart of your needs, and it’s different than what you are aware of on the surface.  But whatever the case, you can trust Him.

And maybe, I’ll still ask Google.  But I know who can really help me.  In fact, He’s the only One who can.

What are your thoughts on this passage from Luke?  How do you understand it?  As always, I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

Praying the Psalms – Psalm 2: The World

The Psalms is a book of prayers.  It covers a wide range of human emotions and can be a catalyst for when you don’t know what to say to God!  Join me as I pray through the Psalms.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

A prayer inspired by Psalm 2:

Lord, we look to our leaders, our rulers, our politicians – as if they are in control.  You have anointed them, but I know that you are the only one who can truly help us.  Please guide them and give them strength and wisdom, to do their jobs well.

Thank you for your direction, laws, and wisdom, which you have provided in order to protect us.  Help us to value and trust in your words.

We look forward to your return to Earth – something that is difficult for us to imagine right now.  However, the Bible says, and our Christian faith hinges on this belief: you are the risen Lord.  One day, you will return, and put an end to the tyranny, evil, and pain that we constantly see all over the news.  Lord, we rely on this hope, and ask that you would hasten your return, and strengthen our faith.  (“Lord, I believe – help my unbelief!”)

I pray for our leaders and decision makers.  I thank you for them.  Please keep their intentions pure, and their focus clear.  Give them the ideas, resources, and abilities they need to help the people of the world.  Take care of them, Lord.  Help them to know you, and understand your character and heart; your intentions for the nations.  May they be humble, and honest in their dealings.

Lord, we take our refuge in you, and assert in faith: you are the only one who can truly help us.  May you bless us, and forgive us for the countless sins and travesties that have been committed over the years.  Only you can renew our world.  Amen.

Posted in Faith

Praying the Psalms – Psalm 1: Thought Life

The Psalms is a book of prayers.  It covers a wide range of human emotions and can be a catalyst for when you don’t know what to say to God!  Join me as I pray through the Psalms.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

A prayer inspired by Psalm 1:

Lord, please focus my thoughts.  Direct my steps towards the ways that please you.  Please provide friendships for me that will bear good fruit and draw me nearer to you.  Help me to be open to those friendships.  Help me, Lord, to not dwell on negative things.  This can be such a struggle, some days!

Write your words on my heart, Lord.  Fill my head with your thoughts.  Please help the Bible to be meaningful to me; give me understanding and insight.

Help me, Lord, to thrive – could you be my water?  Help me to be healthy in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Help me to do good work that will be effective in the right ways.

I know that your ways are best.  May I not get sidetracked by the things of this world: selfish ambition, wealth – the things that pass away.

Have mercy on me, Lord.  I know that your eyes are always on me, and I thank you for that.

Posted in Faith

Ones Such as Her

I never really knew.  I guess I just never really knew.  (I probably still don’t.)

What it would have been like to be her – her darkest, most secret sins laid bare for the world to see.  They may as well have stripped her clothes, or splayed her ribs open.

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“They made her stand before the group…”

John 8:3b

“ ‘In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.’ ”

John 8:5a

Whatever would happen, it couldn’t be worse than this heaviness.  As if her heart had turned to lead.  The nausea.  Unable to raise her head, she stares at the dirt.

“End it now.  Just end it.”

The hateful voices asserting their disgust swell to a roar, deafening her ears, until they meld to a muffle of noise.  As she stands there, she embraces a numbness that distances herself from them.  She continues to stare into the grains of dirt.  She will be one with the ground.  Soon.

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Startling her daze, a finger crosses her line of vision.  Someone is before her, writing in the dirt.  She shifts her gaze up and sideways, just enough to view Him.  Her eyebrows twitch, and her head does a small shake, before dropping again.

“Come on.  Let’s get this over with al-”

“Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Interrupting her thought and cutting the din in her ears, His voice is suddenly booming.  He is standing now, in front of her.  Looking up quickly, she sees His straightened back.  His feet are planted, His arms set apart slightly from His sides.  He appears immovable.  The demands and taunts of the crowd grow quieter, like a fading wind.

Her breath catches.  Her heart beats heavily upon her chest.  Her eyes are still on His back, and the sounds of her accusers have dissipated.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14-15

Releasing them from His piercing gaze, He stoops to the earth again.  It doesn’t look like He plans to leave.

The crowd, however, shifts uneasily on their feet.  They glance around at each other.  A few of them walk off, slowly.  Some shake their heads, or frown.  One looks at her and remembers something.  His eyes become windows, for a moment.  Exhaling, he turns and slumps away, looking down.

As she watches in shock, the weakened crowd retreats, one by one.  With the exit of each person, her incredulity grows.  The Man is still writing with His finger in the dirt that she had expected to, by now, be soaked with her blood.  She pants heavily, and notices a smile playing quietly upon the corners of His mouth.  Without moving His head, He eyes the bystanders who are left.  Disarmed, they slink reluctantly away, glancing back over their shoulders, as if searching for a way to regain their footing.

It is silent for a moment as Jesus stops writing and leans back on His heels, watching them depart.  When He stands and turns to face her, His smile is fully grown.  Softly, now, He speaks to her:

“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  Liquid gathers in his lower eyelids.

Her heart still pounding, she glances beyond His shoulder.  Seeing only a smattering of dents in the ground where they had once stood, she stutters hurriedly,

“N-n-no-one, sir.”  Her voice is hoarse, but within her, the exhilaration of hope rises.  Like a point of light, expanding, and overtaking.

Unexpectedly and gruffly, a laugh bursts from her mouth.  When she draws her breath in again, it becomes a sob.

“Then neither do I condemn you.”  Still smiling, He drops His eyes to her feet and lays a hand on the back of her arm.  Stepping to her closely, she feels His breath on her ear.

“Go now.  And leave your life of sin.”

(Adapted from John 8:1-11)

 

This post was first published on April 18, 2019, at my first blog – Little Moment Meditations

Happy Easter everyone!

Lisa

Posted in Faith

Love Blockers

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 ESV

Well, the holidays are nearly over.  Feeling a little grumpy?  Feeling overwhelmed?  I know I am.  Clutter, noise, excitement, being away from home, socializing, and breaking from the gentle routines that soothe me will leave me feeling depleted.  I see it in my kids, too.  Yesterday my 3 year old cried nearly the entire day and didn’t seem to know how to do anything except get into trouble.  My 8 year old didn’t want to leave the couch (and I didn’t make him).  They both went to bed an hour ahead of their usual bedtimes.

I didn’t do much better – just drifted around the house, and very slowly picked up, sorted through, or cleaned the aftermath of all our merriment – trying to ease my anxiety by restoring order.  (First world problems, right?)

Christmas was fun, but man, we’re tired.

And it’s at times like this that we’ll lose sight of why we did it all in the first place.

Why did we celebrate Christmas?  Isn’t it all about love?  Jesus and His love, and the way we’re all supposed to love each other?

I don’t always feel like being loving.  As I laid in bed the other night, I confessed this.  And I asked the Lord: what is blocking me?

The answers may lie in a chapter of the Bible that has been made famous by weddings everywhere.  But let us be clear: these words are not only for weddings!  They hold the keys to the things that trip us up; that throw us off of our love game.

Impatience

“Are you done or not?” “Hurry up.” “Either do this or I’ll do it for you.”

Few things tax my patience like assisting a 3 year old with his frequent, long-drawn-out, slow-pokey trips to the bathroom.

But patience, is what is required.  Impatience, is a love-blocker.

Envy

Don’t even get me started on this one.  Everywhere I look, there is something to envy.  Homes, relationships, physical attributes, clothes, wealth, success, talent, recognition, vacations, accomplishments…even spiritual experiences!

It’s a daily struggle.  It’s a love blocker.

My way or no way

“It’s fine if you want to get together, but if it’s not on my schedule, then too bad.”

“Oh gross, didn’t we eat (fill in the blank) last year?”

“What a lousy gift.  Why did they even bother?”

“There’s no way I’m driving that far.”

Let me be clear, personal boundaries are allowed.  If you can’t accommodate the way others want you to do things, there is a way to decide that with a clear head (after you confess your offense/anger to God and let it go).  And then, to communicate your decision to them kindly.

But getting in a huff over it, and holding on to resentment, and NEVER being willing to adjust your plans or preferences to accommodate those of others?  Major love blockers.

Rejoicing at wrongdoing

“Uh, what’s that juicy bit?  Tell it again, I may have missed it.”

Proverbs 18:8 (NIV) says that “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”  I think this is a very vivid, pointed verse.  Are you familiar with that little leap of excitement you feel on the inside, when you hear about some kind of scandal?  Especially if it’s someone you’re angry with or envious of, because their wrongdoing or misfortune either substantiates your position, or makes you feel better about yourself.

I am learning to check my heart, and if there’s anything in there besides love and concern for the person being spoken of, not participate in the conversation.

Impatience, envy, “my way or no way,” and rejoicing at wrongdoing.  4 major love blockers.  I’m acquainted with them…are you?

Response

Lord, I confess that I’m rarely as loving as I want to be.  Thank you for these verses, which help me to understand some of the reasons why.  I’m sorry for being impatient, envious, wanting my own way, and rejoicing at wrongdoing.  You are the only one who can help me to conquer these things, so I ask you to help me, please.

I know that to me, nothing feels better than being truly and genuinely loved.  Please give me the capacity to extend that to others, in an authentic way, so they can experience the amazing feeling of being loved, and so I can be of good use to your purposes while I am here on earth.

Amen.

Posted in Faith

Papa’s Delight

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.  Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” Psalm 27:1-3

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37: 4

Sometimes, it feels like the odds are stacked against us.  Circumstances, or people, are standing in the way of good things happening in our lives.  Do we dare even hope for anything?  Or do we just hang on as best we can until we get to Heaven?

Yes, the Bible promises that we will have trials and hardships in our lives.  But it is also biblical to hope for the goodness of the Lord, “in the land of the living” – that is, in this life.

God has made us with unique desires.  He knows what it is that we are longing for, and has the keys to our true fulfillment.  One of these keys is offered in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

How may we delight ourselves in the Lord?  One way is to believe that He truly loves us, including our specific qualities, which He has designed.

To do this, we may simply ask God in prayer: “What do you love about me?”

Perhaps something will pop into your mind.  If it does, try not to judge whatever it is, and simply jot it down.

Here is an example of what came to mind for me: Creative energy.

The second question I asked Him was, “How may I use this for good?”

And the answer came: Prepare for Christmas – shop for gifts; wrap gifts; bake cookies; decorate.  And keep writing.  Anything and everything.

This answer came with an addendum: Do it for me.  I imagined God as a proud Papa, beaming over something His child had created or done for Him:

Look at this!  My daughter made it.  She made it for me.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

It is so easy for us to forget, when circumstances and people come against us, that God loves us deeply, as a good Father loves His kids.  But it is tapping into this love, and what it means for us personally, that will fill our lives with the joy that we long for so deeply.

Response

Heavenly Father, please forgive me, for doubting that you love me and desire good for me.  Help me to find joy in doing the things you made me to do.  May I present them to you, that I would see you beam with love for me.

Thank you for affirming me, Lord, and helping me to delight in you.  Amen.

Posted in Faith

Freed to Love

((*Note: In the past I shared recipes and printables on Mondays.  However, moving forward, I would like to share a meditation from my devotions instead.  I will try to post as many Mondays as I can but can’t guarantee that I won’t miss a few!  Hope you enjoy.))

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5

Loving others can be hard.  Sometimes I don’t have the emotional reserve for it.  I’m too tired, stressed, worried, or depressed.  The weight of my own burdens is so heavy, that I don’t have strength to even think or care about what other people are going through.

1 Timothy 1:5 gives a clue as to how we may find the strength to love others.  In this verse Paul says that love comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

What is the common thread through each of these points?

Honesty.

A pure heart – An honest heart that is truly and intently focused on pleasing God.  A person with a pure heart still won’t behave perfectly.  However, they will turn from their sin quickly and humbly repent of it before God.

A good conscience – If you are honest about your sins and failings before God, He will cleanse you of them.  You will not be weighed down by your sins any longer or the emotional burdens that they cause.  You will be more truthful with other people about who you are, including your weaknesses – because by the grace of Jesus you are no longer condemned or held hostage by them.  A good conscience feels light, and free, and will be given to anyone who asks.  This is nothing short of miraculous.

A sincere faith – Do you actually trust the Lord?  Is your faith in Him sincere?  Or do life’s troubles bring you to a state of depression and worry?  If you entrust your life confidently to the Lord, acknowledging that He will replace your anxiety and sadness with victory and joy, your emotional burdens will be lightened.  Then, you will be able to shift your focus to others.

Response

Jesus, please forgive me for not believing you with a faith that is sincere.  For holding on to depression and worry, rather than entrusting my troubles confidently to you.

Lord, I give you my day and all the challenges that will come with it.  I choose to believe that you will bring me victory and joy in place of anxiety and depression.  Please strengthen the sincerity of my faith, that my emotional resources could be freed for love and service.  Amen.