Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent Day 23: Only one of you and one of me

Reposted from 2013: God created us in community. Even Jesus was born into a family, known as from a town, and active within a group of followers. Sometimes you may think you have to do things on your own. Sometimes you may be overwhelmed by relationships. Can you identify with this post?

Think you're all alone? Too insignificant to make a difference? Ever ask yourself, "What can one person do, anyway?"

You might rethink that assumption as I did, listening to this (click here). This one gifted person creates a sound experience with his persistence, not to be missed!

Some of  biggest eye-openers and influences come through people interacting in ones and twos. This past week, I talked to::
  1. Family: Mom and Dad came for a visit. I talked to Mom on the phone. Our kids came for lunch. Our granddaughter spent a day with us.
  2. Friends: I just got back from tea with a dear looooong-term girlfriend who provided insights and advice. Within the past few days, I've talked to my WPPRs accountability group (four women, meeting for over 20 years). A friend and I watched her toddler and my grandchild play in the park.
  3. Mentors: Several peer mentors directed me in self-examination, helped me edit, suggested work possibilities, and opened the door for a board position.
  4. Church: Two pastors in particular spoke into my life. (Sudden AHA, anyone?)
  5. Acquaintances: The gal I walk with after exercise class taught me about Alabama and shared her concerns about life as a live-in partner (vs. marriage).
  6. People I've never met: Online and in books, the creativity in pictures and words inspires me. I love reading blogs and thinking about the sub-text (the unspoken agendas behind and under the photography, painting, and writing). Sometimes my readers respond with stimulating questions or life experiences, encouraging me to step forward in my own thinking. I LOVE hearing from you!
Who needs you? Could the world be changed if you gave the day everything you had - your gifts, talents, education, friendship, skills, history, and more?

Whom do you need? Could you write out a list similar to mine above? Not every week is this full, but we talk to people all the time. 

To whom could you send a thank you note or email? Who has touched your life recently?

Read more:
*In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. He heard my voice. Psalm 18:6 ESV

*I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Psalm 69:13 NIV

*Paul said, “To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great.” Acts 26:22 ESV

*Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 NLT

Moravian Prayer: God, teach us to pray: to know the comfort and power that comes from open hearts. Move us to pray often this day: prayers of gratitude, petition, or praise. Meld our words with our actions, gentle God, so our very lives become a prayerful response to you.

We often call upon you, Lord, expecting easy solutions when what we need to recognize is your presence and strength. Thank you for trusting us to live one day at a time and for assuring us that we are never alone. Amen.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lent Day 22: An eye for an eye

A repost from Lent 2010: 
One bumper sticker on the van ahead of me in traffic reads, "What would Jesus bomb?" and the one right beside it says, "An eye for an eye, and the whole world is blind."

The driver misses the point twice. Jesus indicated no political leanings besides, "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." 

The second saying did not originate as revenge. Expressing God's desire for protection within an uncivilized slave culture, the "eye for an eye" law acted as a limiter of revenge. You could not take more from your adversary than was taken from you, JUST an eye for an eye. No more. You couldn't kill someone for making you lame or knocking out your tooth. Judging from current Middle Eastern temperaments, taking an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth and calling it "justice, done, finito!" would be a big improvement.

Jesus went a step further and said, "If your enemy demands you walk a mile with them (probably carrying their heavy pack), offer to carry it a second mile. Turn another cheek to be struck, rather than hitting back." And hardest of all to swallow: "God your Father will forgive you in the same measure you forgive those who have offended you."

Who bugs you or did you harm? Can you place them into God's care with a prayer for blessing rather than cursing, and entrust yourself to the merciful hand of God for your own sins?

Read more:
*But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3 NLT

*Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name." Daniel 9:17-19 NIV 

*Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 NIV

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lent Day 21: A day of surprises

Over 900 lbs. Who knew fish got
this big? The surprise news item of my day.

Here's what surprised me today:
  • I zoned in on my first surprise during morning devotions. I'd never noticed that Jesus ate the Last Supper and washed his disciples' feet before Judas left to betray him. I wonder, have I ever willingly eaten with or "washed the feet" of someone who was about to double-cross me, knowing their intentions? (John 13)
  • I love love love speaking in front of a group. (Yeah, I like it that much, which surprises me every time.) Getting up in public makes my heart sing. I feel energized and happy, not nervous. How could it be such fun when I hardly spoke for decades? (My spouse is a gifted communicator so I've heard a lot of great talks. But that's rarely opened the door to speaking opportunities. For an event, you'd book a seasoned pro rather than an unknown part-timer, wouldn't you? Makes sense to me.)
  • Speaking makes one a better speaker or "practice makes perfect." This year, W and I preached together most Sundays. It was a new skill for us, started by accident last September: I included him in my first-ever "6-minute-window-before-he-preaches" and he asked me back to the platform during Q&A, after his talk. We've never looked back. Our relaxation while co-speaking comes from confidence in God, trusting our partner, and sharing our voices. Speaking together has made solo talks easier, too.
  • People thrive in a healthy team setting. Once again, I've been delighted by the sheer pleasure of a high-functioning team. Kim Martinez (Get Unstuck Bootcamp) facilitated our speech-coaching session today. She rocked as our team leader. Four women presented their talk. The following critique and the discussion were as much fun for me as speaking.
  • Our two-year-old granddaughter is pretty good at singing "Happy Birthday." Apparently she's had a lot of peers to practice on lately. I was impressed.
  • I laughed aloud with delight at W's bday card. He couldn't find an English one he liked, so it was Spanish - a precursor for guessing meaning in another language (we don't speak Spanish). Funny. And sweet.
  • My Indonesian word-of-the-day is kelici (pronounced "cullinchee"). Guess what it means?
My first-ever Spanish birthday card
from my decidedly not Spanish husband
Thank you all for your birthday wishes and the kind words throughout the day. Friends are a true treasure, the best gift I can imagine.

Read more:
*[God says] My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they stand at attention. Isaiah 48:13 ESV

*For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:26-29 NLT

*For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 NLT

*Worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. Revelation 14:7 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Magnificent Creator, maker of everything—arbiter of distant galaxies, weaver of the very air we breathe—help us to take our proper place in this world you have created and praise your name forever. Amen.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lent Day 20: Family traits

We're halfway through Lent. I must say, I miiissssssss sweets every day (usually a few times a day) and the other disciplines are a pain at times. But I'm reminded how good life is, even with a few routines disrupted to remind me of Jesus' sacrifice.

Here's a repost that made me think of how lucky I am to be in God's family.
The day has slipped by. My brother and his kids came for a visit - they live in Edmonton, so it's a rare treat. Being with family is renewing and reminds us of who we are inside, before the expectations of work and friends shaped us.

Our parents made sure we stayed in touch when we started our families, so as adults we know each other, like each other, and enjoy the individuality of our callings as well as the things we have in common.

Dad put his Super 8 movies on DVD. What a laugh it's been to watch my little brothers put on an unselfconscious show (cello and violin). My older brother looks disinterested (at age 14), a typical lanky teen, bored at being conscripted for photos. He'll be the one who picks up the baton and makes a career out of music. In all the pictures, I'm restless, distracted, and uncomfortable on camera.

The old films show how we work together when the family plays music: my dad tucks his violin under his chin and the rest of us fall into line. We often have no music, just a, "Let's play this tune." No one looks very stressed or anxious about notes because we all play by ear. We're doing what we've done dozens of times, harmonizing together.

The music is an inborn trait: my husband's family and mine grew up singing and playing.  I'd hoped our kids would do the same, make music, perform, bond as a unit. But our kids never found an orchestra to play with, and my husband didn't take much of an interest in the kids' lessons. After we changed churches, the children refused to get up in front of strangers. Gradually the music fizzled out as they went to college and stopped taking lessons.

Maybe our kids will torture their own children with music lessons. It takes a lot of stamina and determination, not to mention a financial commitment. The discipline is all on the part of parents when kids hate practicing. Watching the next generation at lessons would be the best revenge, after all the trips I made as a student and as a parent of students.

It's interesting to see family traits in God's household, too. Some of us perpetuate the good things - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness... and some are still hard at lessons, struggling to fit into the band of brothers and sisters. Our spiritual Elder Brother modeled the family character so we could follow His lead.

God is kind. He watches over us with tender affection and cheers us on to do our best, no matter how excellent or distressing the performance.

Can you identify a few ways God is showing up in your own character and traits as you walk with Him? It's important to accept family and care for them - whether they are biological or spiritual siblings.

Read more:
*The Lord said to Cain, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!" Genesis 4:10 ESV

*Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone  is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 NIV

*Come now, you rich people, listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one. James 5:1,4-6 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, often we easily ignore those who work for what little they have; often we eagerly admire those who have much, but work little. Your mercy O Lord, must prevail. Grant us this mercy that we may work for your justice. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent Day 19: Focused on God's glory

A repost from 2 years ago. I'm thinking about power and glory, in light of the Cross:

My dissertation reader remarked on a missionary's pleasure at seeing an American flag waving overhead: "The flag wasn't a sign that she thought her country was better but a reminder of her country, of what she had left behind for the gospel's sake."

We all love our own people. Those of us who live in "foreign" settings love the touch or taste of home. However, when "home" is a world power, it can be difficult to be objective. The person in the literature definitely felt the superiority of her birthplace in comparison to where she served.

Listening to the story of David this morning (in the book of Samuel), I pondered the rise and fall of strong nations. Blessings come to people whose government or rulers serve God and follow his ways. Sadly, when nations become strong, they forget Moses' warning to his own people:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. ...

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God."(Deut. 8:10-20)

Reading the history of the early C20, I am astonished at how many Christians––including the American presidents of World Wars I and II––prayed for military victory. Believers in Europe and America fervently sought God, and God granted success to the military partnerships to end the wars. But did the God of Gideon need the added troops and weaponry of the USA? Of course not.

The danger of self-reliance - guised as proud patriotism - comes not only during times of battle but perhaps more severely afterwards, when victory is assured and we are tempted to say, "Our strong arm and our superior might has won the day!"

The writer of Acts tells of the downfall of King Herod, who accepted the worship due only to God:

How many people have helped us succeed?
Herod had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to spread and flourish. (Acts 12:20-23)

The consequence of arrogance is a decline in morality and societal values; death and financial ruin are on the horizon. It's always been that way ... because God will share his glory with no other person or system.

With all he accomplished, Jesus always glorified his heavenly Father, rather than pointing to himself. Whatever we achieve, let's remember that blessings come from God. Honor, wealth, and prosperity are in his hands not ours, even when he lends them to us as his stewards. Have we been successful or singled out for acclaim? If so, have we acknowledged God as the origin or are we depending on our own wisdom and savvy?

Read more:
*So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Let my people go, so that they may worship me.'" Exodus 10:3 ESV

*Be still in the presence of the LORD,   and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity." Psalm 37:7-11 ESV

*Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

*God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Gracious God, give us the courage and the strength today to stand up to the powers of evil in our lives. These can walk all over the powerless and sometimes close their ears and eyes to cries for help. Pour your power into us to act. Amen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent Day 18: Complicit sinners

"They're sleeping together," my friend said about her daughter and the boyfriend. She shrugged. "At least we know about it. I hope they're being careful."

My grandma would have marched over to her child or grandchild, pulled the two apart kicking and screaming (she and the couple, if necessary), and fallen on her face before God to fast and pray for the sinners.

My parents' generation would warn and pray, asking God to intervene. They would probably extend God's love to such a couple, and ask God to convict, knowing that all of us make our own choices with consequences.

My generation is so dulled by the adultery and bad marriages around us that we stay quiet and hope for the best. Most of us would not venture a judgment on the couple. "Well, everyone chooses their own path, even if they know better."

Our children's peers would likely shrug it off. "Well, it's their life. We don't have the right to tell anyone else what's right or wrong."

Does that make us complicit in their sins? We know we ourselves are so broken that it's hard to "cast the first stone," even before conviction strikes. Jesus said the person without sin was to begin the punishment on a woman found in adultery. I'm sinful, so I couldn't throw that first stone.

However, he never hesitated to say, "Go and sin no more." When am I willing to follow his example, and when do I look the other way, considering the price he paid to offer us new life?

Read more:
*The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The LORD is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name — He is holy. Psalm 99:1-3 NKJV

*"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah I:18 NET

*Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent Day 17: Birthday reflections

A bit of a ramble today, with some questions at the end.

He's 25. The little guy everyone took care of has been around for a quarter century. So why am I temped to call Jonathan our "baby" when he's all grown up? Guess it's from hearing other mothers call their adult children "my big boy/girl" (the eldest) or "the baby" (the youngest). The label of birth order seems to stick, no matter what the age.

Moms have different reactions when kids are born. My friends talked about falling in love with their newborns. I felt more cautious and curious. I was always taken aback by the thought that whatever we named our kids would follow them for life: my husband's foreign and hard-to-spell last name meant their first names would have to be simple and rhythmic. (Matt or Andy Kowalski? Sandra or Brenda Kowalski? Maybe not.)

It can take time to understand people's expectations. So it took a few hours or days for me to warm up to each stranger who came screaming into our family. We didn't know him or her; a baby's temperament and personality are well-hidden. What I wanted was that the kids would love and serve Jesus from childhood. Honestly, the other expectations were fluid. Who knew who they'd be and what they'd do?

Luckily, babies are good trainers: feed me, clean me, rock me, and let me sleep. That's what they want of their mothers. The rest comes later.

Jono was a good baby, which was a blessing. We lived in a little house (3 small bedrooms, 1 bath, 3X 3' closets and a storage wall.) Two kids shared each bedroom, including Kirsten (8) and her baby brother. He was a cuddler and heat-seeker who would pull the covers off her bed onto his own, leaving her shivering. She soothed him at night and came for us only when he wouldn't be comforted. Kirsten helped potty-train him, feed him, and became his interpreter when Jono started to talk. When I couldn't understand a word, she could tell me exactly what he was saying.

The two older boys took him everywhere. He was playing computer games by 18 months and called the boys for help. "Die Katze! Die Maus!" he's scream when the digital cat was eating the mouse. They'd come running to the rescue. "Don't worry Jono, we'll fix it."

Jono apparently had the youngest child's high pain and torture threshold. Timothy would hold him upside down and drag him down the hall. I'd step in to protect Jonathan, but he'd say, "That's ok, Mom. He's just playing. It doesn't hurt." He was happy being with family and loves being with his friends.

Today we celebrate Jonathan's birthday. He is woven into the family, from grandparents to parents, siblings, and nephew and niece. The family says, "Friends may come and go, but family is lodged in your heart forever. Look out for them." So we do. And he does.

That said, Jonathan is also webbed into a large circle of friends. (It's a privilege to be a "people person," isn't it?) We've asked our kids to "Please run your serious dates past the siblings, not us." We've said that to Jono, too. After all, the person marrying into the family becomes a brother or sister in the tribe, as well as a mate. (Gals in Jono's generation might fool us, but siblings have a closer, clearer look at dating relationships and interactions.)

Mary, Jesus' mother, must have watched with fascination as her son grew up. Jesus' brothers and sisters didn't understand God's call for him. At first, they didn't believe their oldest brother was the Messiah, so Jesus and Mary must have kept that under wraps while he was growing up. It must have been interesting for them to see how he grew into the ministry God had designed him for. And to watch him die for their sins. When did they come to understand Jesus' mission? When he preached? When he died? When he rose from the dead? Did they see him go up to heaven?

Likewise, W and I are amazed by the journey of faith in each child. "Who are they becoming?" we ask as we watch and we pray over them. They develop year by year, making choices day by day. We haven't made any predictions of career. We haven't hoped for riches or fame or position. We just don't care to pursue those things because God gives favor, and bestows authority and honor as he chooses.

Instead, our prayer for Jonathan today is, "God, let him be the man you've designed him to be - completely, whole-heartedly Yours! Let his work and play bless and build those around him, as a reflection of God among us." (Could there be anything more exciting for Christian parents?)

What are your hopes and dreams as your child grows in your womb, comes into the world, toddles toward school age, and learns to drive a car?

What are you thinking and dreaming for them as they move out, work or go to college, or marry start their own families? What would you call success?

Read more:
*Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. John 7:3-5 ESV

*Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lent Day 16: Keeping up appearances

Before: Pierre
We learn a lot from God's creatures. Now, I'm not comparing people to dogs. But even on a dog, appearances matter.

We adopted Lewis (formerly Pierre) to get me out the door and walking. He loves our mornings on the road. I wasn't sure about him when I first saw him. He had a French poodle moustache and a clipped body, very un-poodle-like.

Except for shredding his crate mattress the first few nights, he has no bad habits. (He wasn't crate-trained when we got him.) He walks on a leash, loves people and other animals, and is perfectly housebroken.

I couldn't call him Pierre. I'm reading a lot of C. S. Lewis, so that influenced his name. He became Lewis.

When his coat grew out a bit, I took him to our groomer. What a transformation! With one haircut, we brought home a cute little poodle.

I've had a name change, too. I've gone from Lost to Found, from Wretched to Rescued. I don't know that my outward appearance changed as much as Lewis', but I do know my heart has been utterly transformed by God's goodness.

After: Lewis
Lewis needs regular grooming. Likewise, I must ask Jesus to forgive and clean me up every day. Without the maintaining grace of God, I can quickly become a mess, a tangle of unforgiveness and selfish motivation.

This season is full of remembrance for me. As often as I think about God's gift, I cannot grasp the depth of his love:
  • I can't imagine giving up my child to die in place of someone else. 
  • I can't imagine Jesus leaving heaven't perfection to spend 33 years on earth. He experienced human birth, the love of his mother and his friends. He grew up in a village, apprenticed for work, and preached as an itinerant rabbi. 
  • I certainly don't understand how he remained free from hatred and resentment when his friends betrayed and abandoned him. 
  • The cross? That transforming frame where God hung between heaven and earth? Unfathomable.
  • And the resurrection? I am overcome with wonder at the power of God, evident in Jesus and his followers. Against all odds, the Church endures and grows because of God's resurrection power.
Have you seen God move a person from death to life? Have you experienced it for yourself? Jesus' arms spread wide on the cross, inviting us to come and lay our burdens down. This is the perfect season to be embraced by his love.

Read more:
*Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and hear with your ears. Ezekiel 3:10 ESV

*Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 NIV

*Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" Luke 11:28 ESV

*Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Lead us on to the green pastures of your blessing, great Shepherd—to serenity and peace, to fulfillment and love. We, your sheep, are wont to stray into bitter fields. Guide us with your wisdom and your Word. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lent Day 15: Who am I, anyway?

How do you see yourself?
  • As a hopeful individual? or as a person with dashed dreams?
  • As a failure? or success?
  • As a gifted participant in life? or as someone who "never gets it right"?
  • As part of a community to which you contribute? or as an outsider?

The way we view ourselves 
influences our responses to life. 

On the negative side:
  • If you see yourself as unworthy, you may become a doormat who lets others run roughshod over you (with all the resentment that entails). Or do you blame others when you don't reach your goals? Do you begin your resentments for ill treatment with, "If-only ... ?"
  • If you see yourself as a disempowered minority in gender, ethnicity, education, or another qualifier, you may look for offense - often where none is intended. OR have you become an overachiever who tries to get noticed "in spite of" that quality?
  • If you see yourself as entitled, you may become a bully. Do you treat others as servants for your wants and wishes?
  • If you see yourself as a victim, you may take affront at any slight. Do you refuse to forgive those who deliberately (or otherwise) hurt you, gathering the sins of others into a heap of self-ruin?
On the positive side, walking in freedom, we have been forgiven and set loose from our failures.
  • If you see yourself as God's child, you have a Heavenly Father who delights in you. Do you enjoy those around you as God's co-creations?
  • If you see yourself as servant of God, you will happily serve others in His name. Do you gladly help others out?
  • If you see yourself as worthy of God's attention, the attention of others will only be a bonus if it happens. Are you content with God's approval and surprised when others applaud you?
  • If you see yourself as an overcomer, you will rise to meet every challenge with God's help. Do you look forward to new things?
So, how do we change our persistent perceptions?
Covey's Habits (Click for link)
  1. Find significance in being yourself. God made you. God loves you. God gives you purpose and meaning.
  2. Boost your work with your personality and gifting. If you stock shelves, work an assembly line, are a scientist or an artist, build into your work the things you love. Talk to people (or pray for them) if you're an extrovert. Build your muscles if you're doing physical routines. Learn new things if you're a scholar (wherever you are). Design better ways to do your work if you're gifted in creativity or administration.
  3. Look for ways to enhance the work and profile of others. Speak well of people around you. Tell them when they do good work. Let others shine.
  4. Bring your spirit as well as your mind and body everywhere you go. Be honest about what you believe without being preachy. If others share their journey of faith (or lack of it), share something about your own walk with Christ. Part of wholeness is bringing all of your self along, wherever you are.
  5. Look for the best in your circumstances. Surely there's something good about your life, right where you are now! Count your blessings, name them one by one, says the old song. 
  6. Share your gratitude with others. Tell other people what makes you happy and things you are thankful for.
Start today!

Read more:

*But you, O Lord, do not be far from me; O my strength, hasten to help me! Psalm 22:19 (NKJV)

*Joyful are those you discipline, LORD, those you teach with your instructions. You give them relief from troubled times until a pit is dug to capture the wicked." Psalm 94:12–13 NLT

*He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 NIV

*The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Faithful Lord, help us to remember that when evil surrounds us and when dark thoughts bubble up within us, we can rely on your strength to set us right and see us through. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lent Day 14: Sweet prayers

The grandeur of God's world

  • webbing that ties us to the purposes of God
  • those moments when creature and Creator open up fully to each other
  • our exhalations of joy in God's presence
  • the fragrance of conversation with the Beloved
  • the ropes that anchor us in life's storms
Prayers allow us to:
  • release our cares to the Father
  • take up our responsibilities and obligations
  • admit the beauty and the restraints of being human
  • tap the unending power of a unbounded God
  • put God in his place and us in ours
  • tell pure truth, that God alone deserves honor and glory for his unchanging goodness
The details of God's world
What's your favorite prayer?

Mine is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It reminds me just where I stand - known, forgiven, and accepted by God. Amen.

Read more:
*The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

*By awesome deeds you answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation. Psalm 65:5 NASB

*Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Jeremiah 7:3 ESV

*Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:36-37 ESV

*Jesus says, "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it." John 14:14 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Right here, right now, we seek your vibrant presence among us. Forgive us. Help us to turn out the sins of our hearts, so that you may have a fitting place to live. Right here. Right now. 

How sweet, O Lord, to hear your answer to our prayer. It is a resolved chord, a familiar voice in a strange crowd, birdsong at sunset. Your answer beckons us to secure places, and reminds us—we are yours. Amen.

Lent Day 13: Three big questions

I'm on a 90-day reading plan through the Bible. Some use the Bible as a random guidebook, flipping through its pages to support their choices. But the Bible isn't a soothsayer's manual of, "Apply for this job" or "Don't make that investment."

Others gather wisdom like popcorn, a verse here, a chapter there. But the Bible isn't a fortune cookie collection, either.

Instead, Scripture teaches us to worship the One True God, seek his guidance, and trust that he is in control. God calls us to build our lives on the foundation of its pages. To plan for a good harvest.

I'm asking three questions as I read: what does this section say:
  1. about God?
  2. about people (including us today)?
  3. about life and how we should live?
Finally, I've made it to the Gospels in the New Testament. The Old Testament seemed endless. Each time I read the adventures of people in the Bible, I'm amazed by God's endurance. By his unchanging nature. By his unfailing love.

I'm also discouraged by who we are. Why can't we get it right?

When the kings of Israel serve God, the nation's enemies are defeated. When they depend on their own strength or serve idols, disaster is just around the corner. The predicability of the outcome surely would lead Israel to cling to God, wouldn't it?

No, apparently not. The prophets warn that God notices the inclinations of the heart and the outcomes. God responds to obedience by blessing his people. Just like the people in Bible stories, we know what to do today. And we often choose our own way, over and over again.

Scripture doesn't promise that we become rich and healthy and life is perfect. The enemies come to the gates. People around us make bad choices that hurt us. Yet we are saved from our enemies. God brings us through illness and disappointments. We live life abundantly under God's mercy.

Today I eagerly turn to the stories of Jesus. I read what he taught his disciples and other listeners about God. I marvel how he healed the sick and cared for people. 

My takeaway for the day? We are living in the years of God's favor, invited to serve him with all our hearts. He will care for us if we do, through the ups and downs of life. He carries us from our youth into old age. Wherever he leads us, our privilege is to follow.

What are you reading today? How is God opening his heart to you through his Word?

Read more:
*I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37:23 ESV

*May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 ESV

*Jesus Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Equip your people, Christ, so we may serve. Purge our hearts and purify our minds, that we may undertake God's vision to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, free the prisoner, and proclaim the love of God everywhere. Amen

From C. S. Lewis, Collected Letters, Vol. III: 25 March 1954. "You ask ‘for what’ God wants you. Isn’t the primary answer that He wants you. We’re not told that the lost sheep was sought out for anything except itself [Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7]. Of course, He may have a special job for you: and the certain job is that of becoming more and more His."