Tag Archives: God

Life Is Like a Rollercoaster

In life is seems there are times that we coast along for a little while with no serious issues or problems that worry us, or worse, wake us in the night.

Then, life changes.

Up crops a small (or large) thing that drives us to the place of prayer. You know the one I mean – on our knees seeking God’s guidance, provision, intervention, or healing.
And next, true to the old proverb that trouble comes in threes, along comes another, and another source of anguish, worry, or distress.
Then there we are, on our face again, before our Heavenly Father, begging for His mercy and grace to be poured out (yet again, if you’re like me) and for Him to “fix” it.

These times always remind me of a line from the movie “Parenthood”: life is like a rollercoaster; it has ups and downs that can make us sick or terrified. (I know this isn’t a direct quote, but I haven’t seen the film in a long time.)
It’s still true. Life has very few straight, boring stretches; it’s mostly long slow up-hills, followed by terrifying rushes down and around.
And in those times, we’re reminded very clearly of why we need a Saviour.

At the present time, I need to see God do some really big things.

There are loved ones who need His provision, guidance, and protection, and their hardship and uncertainty weighs upon my heart just as much, if not more than, my own stuff that needs God’s “fixing”.

It seems like throughout my life there has been a recurring theme of “God, we need Your provision! And we need You to help us to trust You for it.”
This has been a result of life choices, but I often question whether I have a big character flaw that I’m unaware of. That’s often hard to face, although I do have frequent times of asking God to change me by the power of His Spirit and to make me the person He wants me to be.
Sometimes those prayers are followed closely by the realisation that I will never completely be the person He desires me to be, but I do still believe that He loves me in spite of my flaws and issues. And I know that He is always at work, refining, shaping, and moulding.

Thank God, His love is never-ending and His mercy knows no limits!

Psalm 40 is perfect for times like these, of life crises and self-doubt  –

1I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and He turned to me and heard my cry.
2He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
3He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what He has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.

4Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.
5O  Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.

6You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that You have made me listen, I finally understand—
You don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8I take joy in doing Your will, my God,
for Your instructions are written on my heart.”

9I have told all Your people about Your justice.
I have not been afraid to speak out,
as You, O  Lord, well know.
10I have not kept the good news of Your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about Your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
of Your unfailing love and faithfulness.

11Lord, don’t hold back Your tender mercies from me.
Let Your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12For troubles surround me—
too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
I can’t see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
I have lost all courage.

13Please, Lord, rescue me!
Come quickly, Lord, and help me.
14May those who try to destroy me
be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
be turned back in disgrace.
15Let them be horrified by their shame,
for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

16But may all who search for You
be filled with joy and gladness in You.
May those who love Your salvation
repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”
17As for me, since I am poor and needy,
let the Lord keep me in His thoughts.
You are my Helper and my Savior.
O my God, do not delay.

Don’t Forget to Do Good

What turbulent times we’re living in!

Wars, natural disasters, terrorists, nuclear threats.

Disturbing. Sad. Even frightening.

The challenge today for followers of Jesus is to keep from getting swept along in the mayhem. But how do we keep from getting distracted?  I’ve heard it said simply:  keep your eyes on Jesus.

As a follower of Jesus, we want to obey Him, obey His word and His teachings. We want to “remain in Him” and to have His words “remain in us.” There are so many instructions in the Bible – for those who read it, I’m sure you’ve noticed this. So how do we pick and choose which ones to follow and which are not necessarily key to right living?

Some say we don’t get to pick and choose.  And for the most part, I’d agree. But those same people are usually the ones who try to prove their righteousness, or religiosity, by obeying the law – God’s law and the laws of society.

But didn’t Jesus really turn all of that on its head?

He said there are really only two commandments:  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, AND Love your neighbour as you love yourself. According to Jesus, these two things encompass all of the law and the commandments.

That brings me to something that has really gotten under my skin today.

As the people of God, we are to love, love, love.  Love each other.  Love God.  Love our enemies. (I’m not going to quote the multitudes of scriptures that I’ve referred to and will continue to refer to; that’s not the point today.)

Also, as God’s people (and here I mean those who love God and have given their lives to Him, just to clarify) we are to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  We are to rescue those who are being swept away by injustice.  We’re to care for the widows and orphans, and I think what’s really meant by that is Handthose who are suffering and in need. We are to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”

How does any of that lead anyone to think that we are to stand idly by (or even worse, cheering) while human beings, those made in the image of the God we love and serve, are mistreated, humiliated, enslaved, or made to suffer needlessly?  And do that in the name of “obeying the Word of God.”

My dear brothers and sisters (those of you who say you love Jesus),  do not think for a moment that you are living as God intends if you keep silent while whole people-groups are labelled as evil intruders.  When “authorities” who were supposedly put into power by God began oppressing, and then murdering, entire categories of people, the “church” kept silent. But the outraged, and I don’t know how many did or did not believe in or follow God, went to work tirelessly doing everything they could to defeat and foil the plans and actions of the so-called ruling government.

Throughout the ages, there have been people who have stood up against oppressive rulers, many giving their lives in the process, because they recognised evil when they encountered it.

Wake up!

Even now the deck is being stacked and the steps are being taken to silence any opposition.

Pray for our leaders; yes, of course. But at the same time, LOVE your neighbour (the stranger you encounter who is in need).  Show your love for God by standing up and speaking out against evil.  No matter who the perpetrator is.

Who Are You Really?

I’ve recently been forced to come to the realization that I’ve been finding my iMaskdentity in my accomplishments and the qualities that I think I possess.

I allowed myself to “become” my various titles:  I’m a mother, therefore, I am nurturing, encouraging, and loving.  I’m a missionary, so I am passionate for God and people.  I’m a manager, so I am a servant-leader, mentor, organizer, and driving force.  Hah!

Wrong!  I am not those things.  I never have been.  I can put on each persona, like a hat, but that doesn’t make me any different.

Those are roles I fulfill, but they are not me, and who I am.  And I was wrong to derive my sense of self from the various roles I perform.  I can be all of those things without confusing myself with my title, but I didn’t.  The sad part is that at one time, I knew better.

I thought I had learned to be only who God says I am.  I would speak, out loud, over myself the Bible verses that talk about my identity as God’s child and follower of Jesus.

But somewhere along the way, I allowed myself to believe the myth that “we are what we do,” and “we’re only as good as our latest achievement.”  As if my performance somehow added value to me as a person.

With the discovery that I’m not who I thought, the image I had of myself crumbled around me.  What I thought were my abilities, and, therefore, my sense who I am and what I’m capable of, dissolved,  like a ripple-effect fade-out in a cheesy movie.  But instead of switching to a different scene, what was left was a confused, blurry image of a person who was no longer sure of herself, what she’s meant to do, or what she’s able to do.

Over the past weeks, I’ve felt worthless and very confused.  I am so thankful for my dear family! They have been so loving and supportive.  I have been more than reassured that they love me unconditionally, and that they are not swayed by any outer facade.  They have helped to remind me of my innate worth as a person made in the image of God.

As unpleasant as this time has been, it has led me to not only re-examine where I derive my self-image from, but to also sift through the rubble and find the foundation.  I thought my foundation was built on God’s unchanging love, but somewhere along the way, I began to build on the shifting sands of society’s standards, which by their very nature change over time.

Am I worth less because I don’t succeed, accomplish, or perform to an arbitrary standard? Not according to God, who has said I’m worth more to Him than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field.  He has numbered the hairs of my head and caught all of my tears. A re-reading of Psalm 139 is a good reminder of the intimacy with which God knows and loves us.

It’s been good for me to have this ‘false self’ stripped away.  Brennan Manning called it the Impostor.  It’s the mask we create for ourselves to hide behind, and supposedly fool others into believing that’s what we’re really like.  Only we also think we’re hiding from God, either never knowing or forgetting that God sees the ‘real’ person all along, and still loves us unrepentantly.

“God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them.” [Abba’s Child by Manning]

Thank the Lord for His reminder that I am His beloved child.

It’s not about what I do, or what I accomplish.   That’s not who I am.

I am a sinner saved by the outrageous grace of an infinitely loving God.  I am someone who makes mistakes.  But because of God’s mercy, they aren’t fatal.

“But God loves who we really are – whether we like it or not.” [ibid.]

If you’d like to read Psalm 139, I’m including it here:

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 139:17 Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me

Waiting

It seems like in life we’re always waiting for something.  A bus, a repairman, the end of the work day, the birth of a child…. the birth of a dream…..an answer to prayer.

I’m in a season of waiting.  A whole season.  Sometimes it’s exhausting.  This waiting, expecting, hoping, watching, listening, wondering.  I try to be patient; to encourage myself, usually by reading the Bible, praising God, listening to uplifting music – those disciplines I’ve been taught as a follower of Jesus.  And I try to be content where I am, continually giving things to God. Telling Him I’m sorry for being ungrateful for all He’s given me.  Only to take those same ‘things’ back again, apparently, because the discontented feelings resurface eventually.

Maybe you’re waiting, too.

Waiting for a fun, new job with creativity and lots of satisfaction. One that you look forward to going to everyday. That helps you not mind that it’s Monday.

Or waiting for love and a family, wondering if that’s going to happen for you.

Or waiting for your skills and talent to match your dreams.

Life is so full of unknowns.  Mysteries.  Disappointments.  But it’s also full of surprises and wonder and joy. Of new beginnings and hope. Of peace and contentment.

I know this is awful, and shocking, but I used to say, “Life sucks, and then you die.”  (I know!)  Slowly, God has changed (is changing) my outlook.  He’s helping me to look beyond circumstances, surroundings, bank balance, and the other trappings of life here on earth, and instead look at Him.

His economy, allegiances, opinions, are not the same as those we’re surrounded by.  He owns everything. Loves everyone. Forgives those who ask. And draws near to those who seek Him. In fact, He promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him, if we seek Him with all of our heart.  He says, ‘Seek Me, and I will be found by you.’

That’s the best kind of waiting.

Waiting in God’s presence.  Because He is good and worth waiting for.

I was re-reading one of my favorite Brennan Manning books yesterday, after hearing the sad news of his death.  Here’s a quote he included about waiting:  “In a revealed religion, silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God.  Failure to recognize the value of merely being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything, is to gouge the heart out of

Zippy WaitingChristianity.” (Abba’s Child)

So waiting isn’t always a bad or hard thing.  It can be illuminating. Fulfilling.

It can also be restorative and refreshing.  Another Bible verse says, “Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)  That is a promise from God to us that He will give us the strength we need to continue. Even if it’s to continue to wait.

I’m also waiting to be made perfect. To stop making the same mistakes again and again.  I think I can file that one under “Definitely not going to happen.”  At least, not on this side of Heaven.

Do what you like vs. Like what you do

Coffee MugI really had intended to write something every week.  And then I got news at work that I may not have a job for much longer.  The organisation I work for is going through a restructuring process. (Is that code for “you’re fired”?)

I admit that I over-reacted at first.  I was pretty angry and felt really betrayed.  I’ve worked so hard at what I do, way above what’s required in my contract.  I regularly put in 10-12 hour days in order to do the best job possible and bless the organisation.  I believe in what they do!  Helping homeless and vulnerable people is essential and definitely God-ordained.

Now, eight and a half years down the road, I could be out of work, forced into a more stressful job post, or find myself demoted with a salary cut.  Not really choices I wanted to have to make.  I’ve had my mind set, for quite some time, on being ‘rescued’ from my job.  I used to stay at home with my children, and would really love to be set free to participate in things I love and feel called to – like caring relationships, helping my life-partner, homemaking, and being available to my children.  I’ve been saying for eight years that I didn’t move to Scotland to do what I’m currently doing; I came to be a missionary.

I’m realising now that my attitude isn’t what it should be.  Who am I to tell God how to do things?  He can deal with me as He chooses, not as I think He should.  I need to be content in EVERY circumstance, and do everything I do as serving the Lord.

Whatever I do, I do my best.  I know that Jesus is who I really work for, whether at home or elsewhere.  He is who I answer to.  I want my life to be lived as an act of worship to God, and a sulky attitude has no place in that.

So, I asked my current boss to consider me for the more demanding position that is being created, and I am also job-hunting.  But I’m dreaming, too.  What if I could replace my income doing something else?  Something different?  Something that utilises my talents and interests and not just my learned abilities.  That would be amazing!

No Judgment!

I was recently asked to write a few words based on a specific Bible passage as part of a shared blog during Lent.  For those unfamiliar with Lent, it is the 40 day period leading up to Good Friday and Easter.  It has traditionally been considered part of the Catholic tradition, and has, unfortunately, been ignored by most non-Catholic followers of Jesus.  But for some, it has become a meaningful time of meditating on Jesus’ journey to the cross, and it is in that light that I now approach this season.

With that explanation, here is my contribution.  If you would like to continue to read through the daily blogs written by the folks who are a part of the Mosaic Edinburgh community, here is the link: http://journey-mosaic.blogspot.co.uk/

John 3:16-21

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[a]

Footnotes:

  1. 3:21 Or can see God at work in what he is doing.

How amazingly blessed are we?!! “There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES in Him.”

What a beautifully simple plan God has put into place for us:  Believe and escape judgment.  Believe and have eternal life.

Believe in the One who left heaven for us.  Believe in His humanity.  Believe in His divinity. Believe in His sacrifice in our place.  Believe that He died.  Believe that He conquered death, because He rose from the dead.  Believe that He is seated at the right-hand of the Father in heaven.  Believe that He intercedes for us.  Believe that we get to be with Him forever.  And believe that love for us was the motivation for it all:  this wonderfully simple plan of God.

Sometimes it seems that so little is required of us in this plan of God’s.  Until we realise that it requires everything from us.

If we believe, we give up everything to Him and for Him, because He gave up everything for us.

We give up our unbelief, because if we hold on to that, as these verses tell us, we’ll be judged, and who would want that when we can escape judgment if we will only believe?

We give up living in darkness and holding onto our evil deeds, because His light has come, so we no longer live in darkness.  Our evil deeds are gone, because of His sacrifice in our place, so we don’t have any fear that they’ll be exposed.  We have given up hopelessness, fear, dread, and all those other slimy creatures that lurk in the darkness, because we now live in His light.

There are things that are more difficult for us to give up, even though we know that Jesus sacrificed those things as well.  Dignity might be one of them.  Rights and entitlement might be others.  We know that Jesus gave up His rights.  He could have held on to the entitlement due to the King of Heaven’s Armies (one of His names in the book of Psalms), but He didn’t.  Even so, we sometimes struggle to surrender those things.

There’s no judgment for us now, which means that we also give up judgment.  How can we judge others, when we know we will not be judged.  That’s another of the things Jesus gave up that we struggle to let go of.

What about control?  He surrendered His control, evidenced in the prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, and yet we definitely struggle to give up our control.  Until of course we come to the realisation that it’s only an illusion any way, and we’re not really in control at all.

How about self-determination?  But Jesus gave His life away.  He could have had life goals that didn’t include being led like a lamb to the slaughter.  He could have had ambitions for Himself.  He chose, instead, to make winning us His ambition.

What about ‘stuff’?  This world offers a lot of good ‘stuff.’  When it was offered to Him, He turned it down, even all the kingdoms of the world.  Few of us will ever have to give up anything like the wealth and power that Jesus was offered, but rejected.

Even when we struggle to give up some of these things, Jesus doesn’t judge us.  These verses of scripture assure us that He didn’t come to judge us.  “God sent His son into the world not to judge the world…” and again, “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In the face of such overwhelming, sacrificial, merciful love, is there really anything we would rather hold on to?