Archive for November, 2015

Floating when things go wrong

November 29th, 2015 by Maureen

Grace and peace – Insert reference of choice that’s pretty much somewhere in every NT letter or epistle.

Stuff goes wrong. Physical ailments take their toll. It rains. Stuff breaks. Things get lost. Complications occur. Accidents happen. Even to people who pray and fast, or believe without doubt, or follow rules, or practice extreme health and safety precautions, or, practice positive thinking, or observe superstitions, or blame karma, or analyze until they find reasons, or proclaim with certainty that there has to be some hidden reason, or deny all of this and embrace chance or chaos. When stuff goes wrong we can struggle in the whirlpool of anger, grief, and confusion or we can let go and simply float in the current of grace and peace. We come out of it with fewer scars in the current.

Lord, lots of stuff went wrong this week. Thanks for helping me float.

Tis the season

November 29th, 2015 by Maureen

Glory to God in the highest. And peace on earth, among mankind, goodwill. Luke 2:14 (YLT)

God had a divine purpose that landed baby Jesus in the manger; and it wasn’t so we could create another holiday that must then be observed correctly. Why compartmentalize charity, family, church, and manger scenes as “true meaning” and the rest as “distractions?” Might the celebrating, the decorating, the events, the parties, and even the shopping become expressions of peace and goodwill? Whatever the motives, does judging the way other people celebrate or getting offended because Christ is not sufficiently recognized by civic and commercial institutions express peace and goodwill? Christmas doesn’t have to be a choice between “political correctness” or “religious observance.” We can choose to approach all things, including this season, with God’s love, peace, goodwill, joy, beauty, and wonder.

Lord, let peace on earth, goodwill toward all be my heart’s purpose this season.

Thankful for friendships

November 28th, 2015 by Maureen

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Phil 1:3

Friendship is more than a greeting card sentiment. We humans are social beings and we really do need one another. Friends are often God’s tangible expression of help, comfort, love, and wisdom. When a name is referenced in conversation or a face pops up in the friends field on Facebook offer a prayer of thanksgiving to go with the affection that rises up at the very thought of that friend.

Lord, thank you for friends near and far. Thank you for past, present, and future friends.

Perceiving abundance

November 26th, 2015 by Maureen

New every morning, abundant is thy faithfulness. Lam. 3:23 (YLT)

Thanksgiving is a culmination of gratitude for a year’s worth of God’s faithfulness. Every day dawns with unique expressions of His love and grace toward us and as we notice those expressions and acknowledge them, we feel happier and more secure – even during hard times – because our focus in on abundance instead of lacking. Thanksgiving is one day in a year’s worth of moments of realization that we are cared for and loved by God.

Lord, thank you for your daily faithfulness through everything that has happened this year.

God eats little foxes for dinner

November 25th, 2015 by Maureen

Catch for us the little foxes that spoil our vineyards. For our vineyards are in bloom. Song of Solomon 2:15

Sometimes holidays, those very times when we are surrounded by family and counting our blessings, little things things happen that cause us to feel less than thankful. Sometimes when we are involved in planning and executing a special family “event” like a Thanksgiving meal things go wrong – not terribly wrong, but just a little wrong. Sometimes the people we love the most get on our nerves and we start noticing their faults instead of the many ways they grace our lives. These are the little foxes.  In the imperfect chaos of family gathering, love is perfect.

Lord, catch the little foxes nipping at my heels that so I can focus on the people You’ve put in my life and count my many blessings.

Songs spilling out

November 23rd, 2015 by Maureen

Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the spirit – and keep on singing – sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. Col. 3:16 (Voice)

As we abide with and in Him we may begin to notice the art, the music, and the stories embedded into our world and into our own selves.  The patterns and motifs He’s designed into our lives emerge. The rhythms of our routines and relationships become the songs and melodies of our hearts. When thankfulness spills out of us it is as if we are singing harmonies to the song God Himself is always singing about His love for us.

Lord, thankfulness spills out.

Even if you catch it, you can’t hold onto it for long

November 22nd, 2015 by Maureen

The love of God is a reality for us because God sent His Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. I Jn 4:9

Sometimes we hit on some formula for personal success that works for awhile. On our best days we might achieve one authentic connection with another human being, if just for a moment. Once in very great awhile we experience that flow that comes with the joy of channeling all our gifts and talents into creating or accomplishing something on an elite level. Then we try to figure out how that happened so we can duplicate the experience – and hopefully market it to others. Our efforts to adjust our thoughts and habits for success can be utterly exhausting and frustrating because we can’t keep forcing this flash of transcendence to steady state of being. The reality of Jesus is living in His love so that the reality we long for becomes a result of abiding in Him rather than a pursuit.

Thank you for the rest that comes when I stop chas it.

Giving is an opportunity not an obligation

November 21st, 2015 by Maureen

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those of the family of faith. Gal. 6:10

Our generosity, kindness, and compassion extends beyond the borders of those who agree with us, although taking care of members of our faith communities is a given. When we internalize the redemption Christ provides the guilt-ridden “ought-to” obligation of charity isn’t the motivation. We no longer debate who “deserves” our resources or figure percentages and tax write offs into our responses. Rather than seeming like another demand on our time and resources doing good to others becomes a spiritually natural response that happens because we are lavishly loved and restored by God and that is what we desire for others. All others.

Lord, thank you for opportunities to do good.

Full bellies and fat souls

November 20th, 2015 by Maureen

Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink. Even if you have no money. Come and choose milk or wine – it’s all free…Why spend your money on groceries that do you no good? Listen and I’ll tell you where to get good food that fattens up your soul.  Is. 55:1 (TLB)

This time of year we push away from the table with full bellies. We gather with loved ones who fill our hearts. We feast because we have much to appreciate and much to celebrate in our lives. Thankfulness causes us to become more keenly aware of all the ways God cares for us our lives and inspires us to participate in His love and care of others. Communion and feasting with Him makes our souls fat.

Lord, may we all have full bellies and fat souls this season.

 

Families gather

November 19th, 2015 by Maureen

For this reason (God’s eternal plan to include Gentiles in His grace)  I pray before the Father from whom every family (patria) in heaven and on earth derives its name. Eph. 3:15

Patria literally means father. It also means lineage or ancestry, a group of people of lay claim to a common origin, or a nation or people. It doesn’t matter who we are: the Angel Gabriel or a refugee orphan, we all trace our origin to the Father.  Our Father is so deeply connected to the Son and the Spirit that He is Triune with them and so deeply connected to us that He sent His Son to reconnect the human family to His.  From this image we derive our desire to belong and connect in families. In this image we gather as families.

Lord, thank you for the people who are born my flesh and blood and those who have become my flesh and blood because You are our Father.

 

Bouncing into grace

November 18th, 2015 by Maureen

In Him we have received redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (paraptoma), according to the rich benefits of His grace which he lavished on us with all wisdom and insight. Eph. 1:7

God in his wisdom and insight made grace really stretchy. Paraptoma means to fall away after being close, to lose one’s footing, or lapse. We may not like ourselves much when we mess up, but a rich benefit of redemptive grace is that our failures, our lapses in judgement, our stumbles and fumbles need not bog us down. The surface of guilt and shame is like quicksand pulling us down. The surface of grace is like a trampoline that bounces us back up. This is what happens when we embrace God’s grace and what restores relationships when we lavish grace on others when they let us down.

Lord, thank You for this amazing, stretchy, bouncy, redemptive grace.

Through the gates and into the courts to Father’s house we go

November 17th, 2015 by Maureen

Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Ps. 100:4

In the geography of our minds thanksgiving is an entry point into awareness of God’s presence. Gratitude incites our souls to praise even if we only possess a rudimentary sense of who God is or catch only the tiniest glimpse of His reality. Gratitude might even distract us from the laundry of list of things we think we want or need to be happy because focus on the Giver helps us recognize that we are satisfied and complete in Him. Most amazing of all, He invites us to make our home in those very courts.

Lord, You are cool beyond description.

What can man do against such reckless hate?

November 15th, 2015 by Maureen

You need not fear the terrors that haunt the night nor the enemy arrows that fly in the day. Ps. 91:5 (Voice)

Life is precious and when there is threat to life it is natural to feel worry, fear, maybe even panic. There is no threat that overwhelms the redemptive power of Christ. There is no enemy bigger than His love and grace. We may reel from the results of hate and death but even those results have no eternal impact. The Enemy simply doesn’t know the war is over. That doesn’t lessen the pain or viciousness of his attacks. God’s victory may not always seem evident, but God’s comfort, love, and goodness can always be evident in our responses. Love may be counter-intuitive, but our responses have to start there.

Lord, give tangible comfort and peace to those who are recovering from these attacks and to those who live in fear because of them. theoden

Grasping at straws

November 11th, 2015 by Maureen

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Jn. 10:10

Abundant lives are full of deep, trusting, supportive relationships and rich, fulfilling activities. The Enemy wants to steal our security, kill our joy, and destroy our relationships. He wants to shrink us down to our meanest, most fearful, most hopeless, and most selfish. He tries to make hoarding look like abundance, to make anger look like power, to make trust look like vulnerability, and to make work look like faith. Christ offers abundance, authenticity, and grace. The Enemy can only steal what we insist on grasping and keeping clinched in our tight little fists. What is in God’s keeping is never lost.

Lord, I abandon myself and all I have to Your abundance.

Thank you God

November 9th, 2015 by Maureen

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Chr. 16:34

God loves it when we recognize that the good things that He’s laid upon our tables are His gift and that those blessings are there because He loves us. Families, friendships, and fellowships exist because God loves. Food, homes, health, jobs, provisions, and cultures are all products of God’s faithful love. Nature, beauty, music, science, math, art, language, etc. are creative expressions of His love.

Thank you, God, for everything!

Stop writing lines

November 8th, 2015 by Maureen

Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on your heart. Prov. 3:3

KINDLINES

Sometimes we just run out of “nice.” The kindness around our necks feels heavy, our forced kind gestures feel false but our unkind remarks or thoughts don’t feel right. Depending on whose handwriting is on our hearts we might experience the heavy burden of the law or the light burden of Christ. When we do the writing ourselves, sort of like writing lines, we get tired and the writing gets squiggly and the message gets lost in he effort. When we read the handwriting of the Savior instead of our own, we don’t have to manufacture kindness or measure it, we simply have to access His kindness already written on our hearts. This is part of the easy yoke and light burden that comes with  being a partaker in His divine nature rather than simply an imitator of it.

Lord, help me to respond with authentic kindness in Your handwriting, not mine.

Materialism is the enemy of gratitude

November 7th, 2015 by Maureen

Be free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for God Himself has said, I will never leave your or forsake you. Heb. 13:5

Too much focus on whatever material things, success, or prosperity that we want from God makes it harder to fully, consciously experience complete contentment with Him in the present and to experience deep gratitude for Him. Intimate relationships aren’t built on what one individual can get out of the other, even if one of those individuals has the limitless resources of God Almighty. Our Father is not going to be stingy with us or make us beg, but our focus belongs on Him not what he holds in His out stretched hands. Because He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can simply trust Him, enjoy Him, and thank Him.

Lord, thank you for the complete and satisfying blessing of what I have right now.

No one is an island

November 6th, 2015 by Maureen

I thank God every time I remember you. Phil 1:3

It’s amazing to think about how many lives touch our own daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Family members, friends, our church families, neighbors, and co-workers, those we mentor, business and social connections, etc. influence us, sometimes in small but significant ways that positively impact our lives. It is likely that many are unaware of how we are changed by knowing them. None of us become who we are or get where we are by ourselves. Maybe Thanksgiving season is a good time to say thank you to God and to each of them.

Lord, each one is so dear and I thank you for them.

Abounding we will go

November 5th, 2015 by Maureen

May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all, even as we do for you. I Thess. 3:12

For some reason the word “abounding” makes me think of an excited pup bounding joyfully toward me, tail wagging in delight. Dog owners will understand what I am talking about. Dogs are so happy to see their humans they can barely stay in their own skin! Such overt expression of emotion can be a bit of a stretch, especially for us introverts, and it might be a bit much to come at our acquaintances leaping and bounding anyway. There are, however, socially acceptable equivalents to let others know how important they are to us and how delighted we are to see them coming.

Lord, help me to show those around me how much I treasure them.

It’s a pain to explain

November 4th, 2015 by Maureen

He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. 2 Cor. 1:4 (Voice)

Sometimes the things we tell ourselves or one another about pain keep us from experiencing authentic comfort.

“It’s punishment for sin – go directly to the shame wallow. Do not pass Go.”

“It’s a test – endure with strength and nobility and don’t disappoint by showing weakness.”

“It’s a learning experience – start studying.”

“It’s an attack of the enemy – spiritual disciplines will make it goes away.”

“Pain is not a legitimate experience for Christians – rebuke and deny it.”

Some things just inexplicably suck and what we really need is a good cry in our Father’s arms because we are legitimately hurting. Sometimes we need a friend who is just going to listen and comfort us. Sometimes real faith is accepting comfort without demanding an explanation.

Lord, Your comfort is so sweet and kind.