Monday, September 27, 2010

Step by Step by Step by . . .

Today has been more of a struggle than the last few weeks have been in regards to doing my weekly blog posting.  I’ve had to fight off the urge to dawdle with just about anything else and get my butt not only into the chair in front of my computer, but to quit reading what other people have taken the time to sit down and write (even as it made me tear up and laugh and think). 

Then I was reminded of something I read on Twitter from the associate pastor at my church: 

Most growth happens as a result of many small steps.
The key is to keep taking them.
- Darryl Harms

Now this may not be big news to many of you.  However, I’m the type of person who has tended to (I’m starting to change!) look at the sum of everything that needs to be done for a project, become totally overwhelmed by the perceived vastness of it all and end up doing nothing.  It could be changing a habit, giving my house a thorough cleaning, preparing for a trip, or working on a writing project.  But I’ll see the point where I want to be or need to be, be overwhelmed by the distance between Point A and Point B and then sit down on the road and there I sit.  The irony is I’m not content in my current position, my spot of inactivity either.  I want to move forward, but I feel like I have no clue as to how to get going. 

No journey is made in one fell swoop, with one giant leap.  I didn’t move from being a baby to a 38-year-old woman in a blink of an eye.  I didn’t learn how to drive after getting behind the wheel only one time.  There are many things in this life where perhaps the best thing to do, really, is to yes, keep the destination in mind while focusing only on the next step.  Don’t look back at all the times you tried before and failed, don’t look at how far away Point B is from your current location. Don’t get caught up in all the things needing to be done today or tomorrow or this week.

Pause.  Take a breath.  Look at what you can do next.   And take another step.

The LORD directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
For the LORD holds them by the hand.
- Psalm 37: 23, 24 (NLT)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

5 Random Things About Me

Inspired by the lovely ladies at words 'n' whimsy and Musings of a writer-in-progess *and* because I am a) waiting for floors to dry and b) now without 'lunch out' plans, here are 5 random things about me:

1. I think I would actually love it if all the clothes my husband and I owned did not need to be ironed, ever.  In fact, my husband would probably love it too as he'd have more shirts to choose from at any given time.

2.  There is a part of me that would like to get up on the stage and make people laugh with the ease with which some others can, but another (and stronger, judging by how often I avoid it) part of me that is petrified of it at the same time.  I feel like a walking oxymoron . . .

3.  I still carry around too much regret over stuff I cannot change.

4.  Sometimes when I look around my house I wonder if x number of years down the road, I"ll end up on "Hoaders: Buried Alive" with little pop-up notes about how the production crew lost a member while setting up for filming.

5.  When I see people doing what they're supposed to be doing, what they were (if you will) made to do, it really does my heart good.  And it makes me smile.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Well *Now* I Do

As soon as I saw the above cartoon on my 2010 Non Sequitur desk calendar, the passage in Romans where Paul talks about doing all the things that are wrong even though he doesn’t really want to do them came to mind, particularly the part in chapter 7, verse 15 (NLT):

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right,
but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
And I, along with many others (Christian or not), can relate to Paul’s frustrations or, at the very least, the sentiment in the cartoon. As kids we weren’t supposed to pass notes in class. But we did it anyways. (Hmmm – how does that work now with texting?) Whatever our age, we’re not supposed to jaywalk, but I have to confess I’ve done it . . . and then been enough of a hypocrite to be annoyed with those who do it when I’m driving. Christians are not supposed to judge others, are supposed to treat others the way they want to be treated, are to love God with everything they’ve got. Yet at one time or another I’ve failed at all of those things. Sometimes all at once; and I am not a one-time offender. Honestly, it would be very easy to go along with the following bit of logic:

Well then, should we keep on sinning
so that God can show us more and more
of His wonderful grace?
-Romans 6:1 (NLT)
But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). And there is the verse after the one quoted above to consider:

I should hope not! If we’ve left the country
where sin is sovereign, how can we
still live in our old house there?
- Romans 6:2 (The Message)
Isaiah 42:20 talks about things the Israelites had not been doing. They saw and recognized what was right, but refused to act on it. They heard God’s commandments and instructions, but they weren’t really paying attention to them or to His prophets. And we can be the same way when it comes to laws and rules and regulations – both with God’s and in regards to ‘the law of the land’. So what do we do?

We can do what Paul said – live a new life in a new land, entering into Christ’s being-here-for us, freed from a life lived in bondage to sin and death (Romans 6:3, 8:1-2 The Message). To put it another way (and as I have highlighted Isaiah 42:17 in my Bible):

See and recognize what is right.
Act on it.
Hear with your ears.
Really listen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pack Up Your Troubles

Worry is a misuse of imagination.
- Tommy Tenney

As it has often been said in one way or another by several people – Do what you're good at. Well I'm good at worrying, so does it not follow that is what I should do? At least that's is what I've told my husband on more than one occasion when he has told me not to worry about something. (Matthew 6:27 is true, otherwise I would be as tall as my 6' 3” husband . . .) Yet, Christian or not, there is an inherent flaw to that logic for anyone who thinks they should worry because he or she is good at it. And that would be this:

It accomplishes nothing good or productive.

Think about it. Does it make the situation you're worried about less scary? Do you feel better prepared for a test when you go into it with worry nipping at your heels? Does it give you confidence? Peace? Hope?

Oh, be honest now – you know it doesn't do any of those things. In fact, worry only serves to amplify the scariness of the unknown; it muddles your memory and can leave you uncertain, unsure, agitated, and bordering on hopeless if it's not properly checked and reigned in. But looking at what you're worried about and why can lead to some positive actions if dealt with properly. Worried about an upcoming test? You can choose to study more for it. A new situation have you on edge, uncertain? Research it as best you can, prepare for what you can prepare for and leave what you can't do anything about with God.

Yes, God – Christians are instructed in Proverbs 3: 5-6 to trust in the Lord with all their heart, mind, and soul and to not lean on their own understanding. And the best thing Christians can do is take their worries to God in prayer. He knows all the things people have need of, all the longings in every heart. And He know the way in which those needs and wants can best be met for the benefit of the individual and all those around him or her. Eugene H. Peterson expresses it succinctly in The Message, his popular paraphrase of the Bible:
Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
- 1 Peter 5:7
So we have a choice. Do we pack up our worries and leave them with God? Or carry them with us, day in and day out, weighing us down with every step?

And if you need some help, some hope, here is an excerpt from a letter sent to the Jewish leaders in the midst of their Babylonian captivity:
For I know the thoughts that I think
toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of
peace and not of evil, to give you
a future and a hope.
- Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJ)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Comfort vs. Growth

“You cannot grow, AND hang onto your comfort
at the same time.” -- Deborah Stewart

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 (Message)

I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of hard/difficult/can't-really-plan-for-them times. I like a certain predictability (most of the time) to my days and for things to go along at a nice, steady pace. No big surprises or bumps in the road that leave me without an idea as to what is going to happen next, please and thank you. Yet how often does God actually operate that way? One needs only to read the stories of many people in the Bible – Abraham, Joseph, Job, Hosea and Paul to name but a few – and look at the lives of Christians around them and even at one's own life to see the uncertainties we are often faced with in this life.

And so much of Western culture is opposite of what we find in God's Word. Life is to be easy, comfortable, profitable and free of unpleasant shocks and surprises. At least that's what I hear.

But God isn't interested in our comfort and ease of life as much as He is in getting the word out about His love, mercy, salvation, and impending judgement for those who choose to reject Him. And for those who have chosen to follow Him, He wants to achieve in us the following:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
-- Micah 6:8 (NKJ)

Sometimes experiencing an injustice helps us to do justly. Or having someone be unmerciful towards us seeds in our hearts a strong appreciation of mercy both received and given. Perhaps having our castles and dreams . . . our idols, really, topple to the ground will open our cloudy eyes to the greatness of the God who gives us all the breath we need to live each day.

God does want to bless us. He wants to give us good things. He has good things in store for us. Read Jeremiah 29: 11 – 14a. And John 3:16, along with 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 – 24. Those aren't bad things, are they? So we – and I heartily include myself – need to keep 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18 in mind, particularly verse 17: These short-term troubles lead to long-term rewards.

Abraham experienced the reward – at least the beginnings of it via Isaac. As did Joseph and Job and Hosea and Paul. Maybe they didn't see it all this side of heaven and had to wait until they got to the 'other side'. But seen it they have for the One who made the promises to them and makes them to us today is faithful (2 Thessalonians 5: 24). Remember that when you're being pulled and stretched and are growing. And remember, too, you are not alone.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God.
-- Hebrews 12: 1-2 (NKJ)