Planted By God to Display His Glory -Isaiah 61:3

Archive for February, 2011

Is Seeing Really Believing?

This is an interactive blog post today.

So before I start talking, I’d like to ask you to first tell me-what colors do you see in the picture on the left?

Next, click on the picture, look at it on the website, and read the explanation that goes with it.

Then join me back here to chat!

<blog on pause while you run off for a few minutes>

 

Okay, did you say “whoa” like I did? Even my hubby said it. Then we had to talk because it messes with everything we ever thought was true about what we see. I wonder what thoughts are running through your brain right now… And your spirit.

There’s a huge spiritual lesson in this that I’ve been trying to sort out for the last few days. Fortunately God helped by giving me a challenging circumstance in my life. I had to ask myself if what I was seeing was really true. I had to look much, much closer at the big picture, down to the foundation stones of my faith to find the discernment I was looking for.

Here’s what God is teaching me from this experience:

We cannot, nor should we, always believe what we see.

If I were to believe everything was true based just on what I saw looking from afar, I’d sometimes be wrong.

Think about this too—if everyone around me was telling me that it was true I would tend to believe them and move on, never taking the time to look deeper. Why would I? No alarm bells would go off that something was not right to prompt me to take a closer look. The lines would be accepted as different colors and I would miss the real truth.

Are you following me? I hope so, because this is important for us to grasp as Christians. Because we have two sets of eyes we can choose to see the world through. Our human eyes, and the eyes the spirit of God gives us to discern truth. We are constantly tempted to believe what our human eyes see instead of depending on the sight God has given us. So we need to take a closer look at things. Some may call this being too critical but….

Looking closer at the things we see is not about being suspicious, it’s about being wise:

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. I Thessalonians 5:21 (Amplified Bible)

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! Ephesians 1:17-18 (The Message) 

God gives us “eye tests” like this every day: 

The store clerk is cranky to you. You see cranky. But do you see the pain inside from finding out her mother has cancer, her kid is having trouble in school, and she’s late on her house payment? Can you see that she is not so different from you? That underneath, inside, you have the same color, the same beating heart, the same God who wants to pour out His love to you?

You see something popular. Your friends are all fired up and you want to be in the blue group with them. But you feel a little different. When you look deeper you see that blue is not the true color of God’s heart in this for you. That it’s a partial deception that made you think blue was true. You are able to see the deception (or temptation) for what it is and choose to act or react based on the truth…the sometimes hidden but deep truth of God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s love.

I wrote here, then deleted, the details of my personal experience this week. The details are not important. I looked closely at something and found the eyes of my faith to help guide me. I found what I could believe in–the convictions, the integrity, and the sincerity of heart I need to live before God with.

What is important is whatever God wants you to take a closer look at in your own life. My path is not the same as yours. I’m not called to do the same things as you. Your discernment is what’s best and right for you, seen from the perspective of God’s truth:

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. Hebrews 1:1 (The Message)

I’m challenging you to take a closer look for God’s discernment this week, to see what you can’t see. Where are your integrity, convictions, and sincerity of heart  being challenged? Come back and share your stories and comments below so we can see what you see too!

Thanks for helping me get a handle on what I see.

     – Linda

 

 

Dreams Have No Expiration Date

I met a few amazing women this week. None of them in person. One of them not even alive.

A writer, a singer, and an evangelist, all introduced to me by words.

Written words.

Jesus-changed-my-life words.

I’d like to introduce them to you, in order of their appearance:

Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer who wrote “Blessed Assurance” and 8,000 other hymns during her lifetime. From her childhood, she thanked God every day for the gift of her blindness:

“Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t! So weep or sigh because I’m blind, I cannot, or I won’t!”

Mela Kamin, a stay-at-home Mom who was afraid her dream of singing was just that—a dream. Until God showed her:there are no expiration dates on your gifts or your dreams.”

“What got me out on the battlefield? Someone pushed me. Once I started writing songs, everything I knew about myself came back into view. Then doors opened and people appeared.”

Sister Margo, a local almost 70-year-old with a bad back and aching knees who makes inmates cry.

“I tell them, ‘I love you.’”

They reply, “We get an angel face-to-face…Every day, every week, every hour, every second, I’m glad God brought her to my life.”

Blindness, life circumstances, weak knees.

None of the things on the resumes of their life disqualified them from being used by God.

They qualified them.

But what about me? Middle-aged, empty nest, messed up back, afraid-you-won’t-like-me, me? How qualified am I to be used by God?

I’ve been pondering this all week.

Then someone pushed me.

“If you knew Jesus was coming back this week, this month, this year, what completed manuscript would you most want to lay at His feet?”

Yikes.

It pushed me to my knees. It made me pray. It made me weep.

So I ran to find some words from “Papa” to help me:

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s spirit touches our spirits and confims who we really are. Romans 8:17:15-16 (The Message) 

“Grave tending life.”

When I’m too scared to step out and believe God can use me—is that the life I live?

Could God transform me from who I am, into a person able to pen words like:

 “Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see!”

I can only say…I hope so.

And I pray so.

I disqualified myself years ago based on distorted perceptions of who I am. And based on other people disqualifying me…at least that’s how I interpreted any inkling of rejection.

What a coward I now see that I am.

Content in my timidity to plant flowers on the graves of my failures and shortcomings. Living life as if it’s already over—unable to dream.

Until now.

Words helped change my life this week…and they helped change me.

I pray God can use my words to help you.

And His Word to change you.

I’ve got a manuscript to live. Prayers to pray, tears to shed, and words to write.

Jesus-changed-my-life words.

If you’ve stopped dreaming, I pray God gives you a little push too. Because just like I needed the words these special women shared,  I need what YOU share:

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! 1 Peter 4:10-11 (The Message)

Remember–there’s no expiration date on God sized dreams.

So pass it around so we can all get in on it! 

Thanks for dreaming with me today.

 And Marlene—thanks for the push. I needed that!

                      -Linda

 

 

Bad Days Happen

I had a good day last week. Followed by a bad day. Followed by a moderately bad day, which was followed by a moderately good day. None of which were caused by my choice to quit caffeine last week.

This is just how I rate my life these days. Good, bad, and the moderate ones in-between. It’s become a habit, and another one (like the caffeine) that I’d like to break. But it’s tough, because I’ve been at it for over a year now, ever since that one very bad day happened.

Have you experienced one of those? I bet you have, and whatever your story is, I pray for you…because I know the pain. Literally. For me it’s been coping with unrelenting physical pain, but I know for others it can be unrelenting emotional pain. And so we rate our days: good, bad, and in-between…

On the good days I will call you and chat and maybe even go to the movies. On the bad days you won’t see or hear from me. Only my family sees, but I even try to hide the pain from them. So they won’t start rating their days good or bad based upon mine.

What really got me thinking about how I rate my days was an article I read last week by my favorite writer called 8 ½ Steps to Make it Through the Moderately-Worst Day of Your Life. It made me laugh but also gave me a good dose of God’s grace and hope:

“Even on days when absolutely nothing is going your way, and you watched your toast walk off the plate and jump to the ground butter-side-down, there is something you can control. You. Your outlook, your attitude and your level of optimism.” 

Yup, I can control me. I can control what I choose to focus on and what I choose to believe. And when I make the right choices my best days are the ones when God gets the attention instead of the pain:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

“Give my attention to what God is doing right now”…right now. Today, this moment, and every moment, pain or no pain, God is working in me. Working good things. Things that can only be formed in the heat of the furnace of my pain. And I’m a better person because of that.

So I won’t give up. And neither should you:

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

Not a day goes by… I’m going to endeavor to stop rating my days good or bad based on my pain, and instead rate them all good based on God’s unending grace and love, and His promise for the blessings of my future. Besides, as my favorite author says:

“Bad days happen, but after they are over–that’s just it. They are over. Don’t give a bad day more recognition than it deserves, because it doesn’t deserve any. Stupid bad days.”

Stupid bad days indeed.

Have a good day!   🙂

                   -Linda

By the way, in case you were wondering, my favorite author happens to be Sarah Elizabeth Crawford. Who, in addition to ministering to her Mom, speaks to teen girls through her articles in SUSIE magazine. And you betcha I think she is great!

Caffeine and the Chicken Dance

A little caffeine goes a long way with me. One cup of coffee and I’m ready to leap giant piles of laundry in a single bound, rumble through the housecleaning at top speed, or talk your ear off because my mouth and brain are in overdrive. Those are the positive effects (although my husband might argue about that last one), but there’s one side effect I’ve found that isn’t so positive…

All that charging forward and running around with boundless (although temporary) energy makes me less likely to talk to or listen to God.

Does that happen to you?

I’ve been noticing it more lately because I’m back in the routine of having one weak cup of “real” coffee every morning. It’s weak because anything stronger and I would probably start saying “beep, beep” and race crazily around the house like the Road Runner. (Please tell me you’re not too young to remember that!) But even at that dosage, I find myself waking up too fast and jumping into the activities of my day before I’ve talked to God. Or listened to God. Yikes! By the time I realize it, it’s too late to completely start over. So I cram in a quick prayer, devotion, or scripture and jump back into my daily busy-ness.

It’s not good, I know, and God’s not crazy about it either. Here’s what He has to say about my caffeinated ways:

If you quit listening, dear child, and strike off on your own, you’ll soon be out of your depth. Proverbs 19:27 The Message

God has no use for the prayers of the people who won’t listen to him. Proverbs 28:9 The Message

That doesn’t taste so good for breakfast does it? I’m racing off on my own, way out over my head without a life jacket. And God’s not too interested in my caffeine fueled prayers because my brain is like a pinball machine and I can hardly hear Him through the noise.

It’s not the way I want it to be. I want to be one of these:

Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights. Proverbs 18:15 The Message  

Oh, to be called “wise.” Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

To be honest with you, I can’t really blame my lack of listening just on the caffeine. It’s me. I already have a tendency to jump ahead of God and think I know where I’m headed and what I’m supposed to do…and that’s where I lose Him. He’s not there in the future I’m charging into. Nope, He’s here. Right now. Speaking to me about today and wanting to give me what I need just for today.

Manna du jour, that’s what God’s words are to me each day. And just like the manna God sent to feed the Israelites in the desert, they’re only good for one day, and new every morning. Even when He sends the same words day after day, they are the bread of life for today.

So if I know all this, why do I still race ahead of God? Not make the time to listen?

I’m still a child. I don’t always trust like I should, I don’t always depend on God like I should, and I don’t always acknowledge my weaknesses like I should.

But I’m going to work on changing that starting today…starting with a change in my coffee. Decaf and time spent listening to God’s words are on the menu this morning. Oh, and the chicken dance. (I bet you thought I forgot!) It comes from my favorite quote:

Hope is hearing the music of the future. Faith is dancing to it now. Unknown

I hear the hope when I listen to God. Then I dance. I call my dancing the chicken dance because I can sometimes be a chicken when it comes to stepping out in faith and believing God’s promises for my life. But I dance anyway!

Decaf, manna du jour and the chicken dance…now that’s a full meal deal!

Thanks for sharing manna with me today. It was yummy!

                  Linda

 

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