Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Better Than "OK"

"But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus." 1 Timothy 13-14 The Message

In Beth Moore's book "Breaking Free" she writes;

“Imagine in heaven God lovingly shows you His plan for your earthly life. You see footprints walking through each day. On many days, two sets of footprints appear. You inquire: "Father, are those my footprints everyday, and is the second set of prints when you joined me?" He answers, "No, My precious child. The consistent footprints are Mine. The second set of footprints are when you joined Me." "Where are You going, Father?" 
"To the destiny I planned for you, hoping you'd follow." "But, Father, where are my footprints all those times?" "Sometimes you went back to look at old resentments and habits. Sometimes, you departed from My path and chose your own instead. Other times, your footprints can even be seen on another person's path because you liked their plan better. At other times, you simply stopped because you would not let go of something you could not take with you." "But even if I didn't walk with You every day, we ended up OK, didn't we?" He holds you close and smiles, "Yes, child, we ended up OK. But you see, OK was never what I had in mind for you." "Father, what are those golden treasure boxes on certain days?" "Blessings, My child, I had for you along the way. Those that are open are those you received. Those still closed were days you did not walk with Me."

For years I asked God to walk with me...to bless the plans I had made. Really? Oh the loving patience of The Creator to hear such prayers from His created! The clay telling the Potter how to mold and what to make of it, and then what it should be filled with! 

Thankfully God is too wise to do what I say...and too gracious in His love to leave me misshapen, broken, and empty by all my poor choices. 

Since I don't have a clue where the paths I choose will ultimately lead me...it's wise for me to walk daily with Him in pursuit of His wonderful plans for my life. The path where God leads me...He Knows where it will lead me. He has already planned and laid out His daily blessing and provisions for all I will need. When I stray off His path and walk on one I create...I leave unopened all the treasures God had intended for me to receive.

I honestly don't want to leave any more unopened treasures that God has planned for me while here on earth by walking through this life "my way" and settling for just an "ok" life! So...I choose to diligently follow God and leave the consequences of each step I take on His shoulders. I feel confident that when I go “with God” He has in store for me an abundant life...one that won't leave me feeling disappointed in the journey! 

"I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” - Jeremiah 29:11-13 The Message



Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hide & Seek

Cleanse me from secret faults.Psalm 19:12

The other day while in my car sitting behind the driver's wheel waiting for the red traffic light to change...my thoughts were nowhere in the vicinity of the intersection in which I sat. So when the car next to me proceeded forward... I also took my foot off the brake and drove through the intersection too. The problem was...the car next to me was in a turn lane with a green light and I was in a straight lane with a very red light! Yikes!
Thankfully...my mistake did not result in an accident...but I instantly felt terrible. “Forgive me Lord” I quickly spoke as I glanced around to see if a police car was anywhere in sight and saw none...so I breathed a sigh of relief ~ vowing to myself...I will not do that again! 
Sad thing about that vow...this was not the first time I’ve ever done this very same mistake...nor was it the first time I had the same good results. Nope! The few times I've repeated this same mistake I have been fortunate that it has not caused an accident...and every time it didn't result in my being held accountable.
It wasn’t until I was home again (I decided I needed to keep my thoughts on my driving until then) when I gave what happened at the traffic light more thought.
I sat down and thanked God for protecting me, protecting the other drivers and allowing me to avoid getting a ticket. My thoughts quickly wandered away from my prayer of gratefulness as my feelings of overwhelming relief kicked in again. "Thank goodness, no one I know saw my embarrassing blunder!" To be honest...I even felt a bit elated that I had escaped the penalty if I had been caught going through the light. Thinking..."No harm, no foul"...I began to get up to go about my day again. I was ready to move on to more pleasant things.
However...I felt the Lord’s urging me to sit a while longer so that He may speak to my heart. As the quiet gave way to His presence in me...I discovered quickly that the Lord desired for me to join Him in some self-examination...He wanted me to take a closer look not so much at my fault of “bad driving” and it’s consequences...but my attitude in not being caught. 
“Kathy...Do you think there is not any fault in a thing unless somebody sees you do it? 
You feel it is a great sin if someone steals and are caught robbing the owner ~but what if he should not be discovered—does that make it no longer a sin?  You are offended and seek justice against someone who is caught misrepresenting the value of what they are selling ~but if they were never to be discovered, does that make them sinless?
A sin is still a sin, whether done in private or before the whole world. Do not measure sin by what you or other people say of it; but measure sin by what I say of it, and what the Holy Spirit says of it.” 
Conviction settled over my spirit. Strange isn't it how our nature knows how to find just the right circumstances and conditions in our lives to help us hide our sinful responses so that we don’t even see them as sins that need confessed! 
I may have earlier confessed my sin of inattentiveness and quickly found forgiveness...but my unrepentant hidden sin was tucked away in my attitude of feeling relief...and thinking myself as “not at fault” since my actions didn’t result in being found out and thus held accountable. 
As I more humbly confessed all of these things to the Lord...what blessed relief I received! 
The Spirit of God does not admonish us so as to condemn us...but to set us free so that we may live our lives more abundantly... as a reflection of His Son... and all to the glory of God!                                                                                                                                                                               
    “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”   ~ Romans 8:1-2


Friday, February 8, 2013

Not for a Moment...

"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— I will not leave you all alone like orphans; I will come back to you." John 14:16,18

This morning I woke up feeling tired and discouraged. The past several days have been tough ones in caring for my mom. She has constant back pain from arthritis and it seems none of the medicine I have for her will "remove" her discomfort. Throw in a strong dose of dementia that plagues her thoughts with confusion and perhaps you'll be able to understand the growing frustration I have in not being able to "fix" her health issues to the satisfaction of us both! These past few days and nights have been exhausting ones.

As I sat down with my usual morning cup of coffee and the day's devotional in front of me...my overwhelming feelings of discouragement led me to put both of them down as I felt compelled to unload my burdening thoughts first to the Lord in prayer. 

Before I even formed my first sentence...tears began falling down my face. I realized instantly what was really bothering me the most in all of this. I’m tired and frustrated because I feel so alone without Brad beside me. 

I miss my husband’s encouragement and company...so I reminded God that He left me to do all of this work alone without Brad's help and love to get me through the tuff stuff of caregiving. I once more asked Him “why?” even thought I’ve long since understood even if I did know God’s reason...it would not make me miss Brad less. It seemed to my heart this morning that God has decided I am to be alone...and I just need to accept it. 

As I dried my eyes, I paused for a brief moment...wanting to give God some time just in case He wanted to respond to my complaint...but...I quickly decided He had nothing new to say and was choosing to remain quiet. Feeling no better... I picked up my cup of coffee and after taking a sip, I began to read my first daily devotional for the day...

"...so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone." Joshua 1:5b NET

I paused after reading this familiar Scripture and just smiled. 

“Thank you Lord for reminding me that not for one moment have you ever left me alone! How foolish I am to forget your faithfulness. All I ever need to do is call on your name...and you are with me! For every moment of every day and night when I need wisdom in what I should do...You are with me. When my strength is spent...You give me yours for You are with me. When I feel all alone...You are faithful to remind me...You are with me...and You are all I will ever need.”

I soon realized God had even more He desired for me to understand as I read the devotion that followed...

"True, our days can be filled with frustrations, and life at times is puzzling. But for the believer, lasting happiness is discovered when we center our lives on God. That worldview gives your morning alarm purpose. It changes your commute into communion as you ready yourself to glorify God in your work. Yes, work is man's crowning achievement on earth -- when you focus on God and not on yourself." - David Jeremiah

When I stop looking at the "work" of caregiving  ( or any work of service) as it "affects me"...and see that the work I do is actually a means to commune with God...I am encouraged to know I may look "alone"  but God is always right there with me!  I'm also greatly blessed with the high honor to accomplish every task the Lord places before me to the glory of God!  

When I sat down this morning, I felt defeated. However...when I rose up in response to my mom calling me a few minutes later...I rose up with the light of Truth encouraging me to press on! 

What changed? Not my circumstances...but Contentment was mine because I knew God loves me enough to give me a reminder when I need it... Jesus is with me always and forever. 

Not for a moment... will I ever be alone.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Living the Invited Life

"This is the kind of life we've been invited into, to live our lives as Christ lived. He suffered in every possible way so that we would know how to get through any adversity we face in this life...step-by-step.He never did one thing wrong,..not once did he say anything amiss. We may not be perfect like Christ...but we have His perfection living in us to guide us in the way we should go. 

"They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls." ~ 1 Peter 2:21-25  The Message 

God's Word teaches and directs...

After reading the above Scripture I couldn’t help but stop and ponder the way Jesus lived His life here. He lived each day with a heart that was unrestricted and gave way to unconditional love. Jesus never had one concern for His “rights” or placed a condition on others to accept Him before freely offering what He was willing to give them to meet their need.

Here are a few of my thoughts I wrote down concerning the freedoms we have been given through God’s grace to live our lives following Jesus’ ways.

I am not called to love other because they agree with me. In fact, God’s love lives inside of me which enables me to love those who believe the exact opposite of what I do.

I do not need to be concerned and worried about what others have said or done against me. God’s love enables me to know I need only be concerned with the word of my mouth, the thoughts of my heart. My actions towards other...all which should be a reflection of what Christ has done for me. 

One of Jesus’ greatest teachings in my life is knowing I don't have to live my life under the pressure of being someone who must try to please the fickleness of an ever changing world. I know how it feels to have my mind, heart and spirit at peace with my enemies.

And through enduring hardships I have Jesus' love living inside of me to guide me in the way I should go...which allows me to experience a godly form of contentment with confidence in God's goodness...trusting He will set all things right.There is so much more to living a full life than living it as if I am at the center of it all. 

Oh...I still have days that I allow my circumstances to determine my contentment...but thankfully the Holy Spirit is quick to remind me that God has a purpose for me in what He is allowing...

His purpose for me to endure difficult or frustrating circumstances may be to strengthen or test me...or just maybe...my circumstances have less to do about me and more to do about God allowing me to be a part of His plans to show someone else why trusting in Jesus produces the peace and contentment they are seeking to find. 

Each morning before my day begins...I must purposefully accept Jesus’ invitation to live today as he lived His. I’m determined not to allow my contentment to depend on my circumstance  For I am confident that the less I fill my spirit with the things about “me”....the more Christ is abundantly filling these spaces with Himself. 

Besides...I know I can trust God! In fact, His faithfulness has been so evident in my life especially these past few years since my husband’s death...I can't help but notice...when my circumstances seem dire...His peace and contentment rule over my heart more often than ever before...crowding out my fear and my  doubts...and even giving me a beautiful glimpse of Jesus living in me. Glory! 

"For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13 (HCSB)