Archive for February, 2016

There is always more to see

February 28th, 2016 by Maureen

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecc. 3:11

There are mornings when it seems as though God has created a new shade of orange for the sun. The impact of ocean waves hitting high rocky cliffs reveal God’s power. The light from an ancient distant star hits the eye with His eternity. A flower unfolds over time much the way His grace and love opens our hearts and minds to reveal more of the beauty of Christ in each of us. We were designed to experience awe, and nature is only a glimpse into the awesome experience of relationship with Him.

Lord, I am awed by all You have made, all that You’ve shown me of Yourself, and all You have yet to reveal.

The unforgettable few and beyond

February 26th, 2016 by Maureen

Every time we think of you we thank God for you and mention you in our prayers. 1 Thess. 1:2

Each of us have a few people who are never far from our minds and hearts. We constantly tell God how much we love them, pray for their needs, and thank Him for putting them our lives because they matter so much to us. How much deeper would our relationships become if we found ways to tell them how much they matter to us every day? We can’t possibly have deep supportive relationships with everyone we encounter, but how would it change our interactions with each person if we simply recognized God’s incredibly love and deep understanding of each one? What if we treated the people in front of us to the love and value we hope our unforgettable few are receiving at that same moment?

Lord, show me ways to express love and appreciation for everyone I encounter today and pour that out on my unforgettable few.

Flexible plans

February 25th, 2016 by Maureen

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Prov. 19:21

Things don’t always work out the way we plan. Speculating on the why can only take us so far in correcting existing problems, avoiding future disappointments, or learning from past mistakes. God’s love and grace always, always, always motivates His interventions into our plans whether it is to aid or to disrupt them. And sometimes He does disrupt. God is the source of good ideas and He has placed a variety of avenues in our lives through which to inspire us so that we can be part of whatever He’s up to. Sometimes we are so intent on carrying out our own plans or recreating something that worked before that we miss His inspiration. If we are open to Him and willing to respond, our infinitely creative and joyous God is likely to inspire us to create and innovate rather than merely to repeat or imitate.

Lord, I believe You are good and Your mercy endures. I want Your plans and inspirations to supersede my own.

The benefits of uncertainty

February 24th, 2016 by Maureen

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Prov. 3:5

A little uncertainty, a few unanswered questions, surprises, outliers, and unconnected dots are good for us. Trust involves those things we can’t control and don’t know. There is no adventure in knowing everything, controlling everything, and predicting everything. We can proceed into life’s uncertainties with curiosity and excitement rather than fear and nervousness because we can be certain of this: God loves us. God is trustworthy. God’s plans and intentions for us are always good.

Lord, I trust you for the next life adventure.

Refreshing rain from heaven

February 23rd, 2016 by Maureen

I will be to [you] like a refreshing dew from heaven.  [You]  will again live under my shade. [You]  will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. [You]  will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. Hos. 14:5a, 7

The puny harvest we squeeze out beyond His shadow happens in drought conditions. We may develop systems and personas to meet someone’s else’s vision of Christianity. We may build  hothouse churches and grow something that has a fake, mass-produced,quality about it. It is as if we are plants on foreign soil needing to be carefully regulated and maintained to survive. There is an honesty that feels organic and real in lives lived out in His shade. There we find authentic refreshment, nourishment, and growth. We are natives to His environment, created to thrive there, growing wild and free.

Lord, thank You for desiring and creating such beauty and hope for me and flourishing in me, beyond my own  interpretation of what it means to be Yours.

Relaxed time management

February 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. Is. 30:15

Life is full of urgent dashes from emergency to emergency punctuated by periods of impatient waiting in which our heads fill up with plans and concerns. Even our “quiet time” can become noisy when prayer becomes 10 minutes of begging and arguing for our own agendas and Bible study means racing through chapters to meet a goal. To find rest and quiet we need to clear our schedules, clear our minds and let God pour into us. Resting in Him might be especially important when we are under pressure and think we don’t have time. God invented time, He can certainly manage a random Monday.

Lord, help me to slow down, manage my time for me, help me to absorb the quietness and confidence found in You.

Some thoughts on dire straits (not the band)

February 21st, 2016 by Maureen

We don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, about the affliction we suffered in Asia, that we were burdened excessively beyond our power our to cope. We even despaired of life itself. 2 Cor. 1:8

As a leader in a new, exciting faith movement it doesn’t seem like publicly confessing despair would be the best strategy. The Corinthian people to whom Paul was writing were his followers, his spiritual children, his donors. How could they be expected to listen to him and support his ministry when he’s confessing that he landed in dire straits, couldn’t work or pray his way out of it, and then despaired?  But Paul wasn’t about building credibility for his leadership position, defending God’s faithfulness, spinning a bad experience, selling a plan for overcoming trouble, or teaching faith strategies for avoiding trouble altogether. He was about  facing reality, being transparent, and trusting and depending on God even when he faced things he couldn’t understand, explain, or fix.

Lord, when the straits get dire and I can’t cope, thank You for always being with me.

 

Thoughts for an off day

February 19th, 2016 by Maureen

So do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. My right hand will hold you up. Is. 41:10

It might be worse when fear or dismay is a general feeling rather than when these are responses to something specific and legitimately distressing. Some days seem to come with negative vibes. We can’t put our fingers on what is wrong but something just feels off. Whenever we feel dismay over anything, real or imagined, defined or undefined, God is no smaller on that day than He is in our happiest moment of our best day. His love, power, grace, goodness, and kindness towards us are limitless. Whatever we may be feeling does not define spiritual reality. In fact, there is an enemy of our souls who would like spread fear and dismay over every thought, attitude, feeling, and response in our lives, but Christ has already defeated this enemy. The only power he has left is to lie. We are always being held up, even when we feel like we are falling. God is always with us, even when we feel alone. By providing us with His Holy Spirit, His Word and encouragement from people who love us our minds can be renewed and we can have the day He made for us to have.

Lord, cause me to rejoice and be glad in this day You’ve made for me.

Rest from the driven life

February 17th, 2016 by Maureen

Return, O my soul, to rest, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. Ps. 116:7-8

Our actual situations – or even our interpretations of our situations – can cause us to feel driven guarded, tense, worried, fearful, vulnerable, maybe even panicked. Not only are we delivered from the death, hell, and tomb that result from sin, we are delivered to refuge, rest, and peace in His arms. We are delivered from our perceptions to His reality. We are delivered from our broken interpretations of truth to wholeness in His truth. We are delivered from being driven by self-centered motives and responses to being guided by His loving and gracious Spirit.

Thank you Lord for salvation that is so complete, that I can find genuine, continuous rest in Your loving arms.

Standing for freedom

February 15th, 2016 by Maureen

So stand strong for our freedom! Christ freed us to we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yolk of slavery, trapped under law. Gal. 5:1 (Voice)

Are we really standing for freedom if we are worried and critical about the way others are practicing theirs? Freedom is messier than law. Freedom cannot be lived through guilt, habit, and compliance. Freedom means we engage spiritually, emotionally, intuitively, perceptively, and practically in all our relationships and pursuits. Freedom means we stay open and receptive to the influence of Christ’s Spirit in all these areas and graciously encourage others in their own relationships with Him. The minute we try to make freedom the new law, we craft a new yolk…and rules and measures are sure to follow.

Lord, thank you for the freedom I enjoy now. Preserve it and help me to live graciously and joyfully in it.

It doesn’t take a smart person to know what love is

February 14th, 2016 by Maureen

I gain nothing unless I love others. Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, arrogant, or rude. Love isn’t self-absorbed or easily upset. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs or celebrate injusticeLove delights in truth not in lies or things that cause pain. Love accepts and endures. It’s is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! I Cor. 13:3b-8

 

Love manifests a fearless beauty, intelligence, and appeal that cannot be bought, earned, or attained. Love isn’t something we have to express, it’s something we get to express. Most of the time when we don’t express love it’s because we are afraid and feel the need to protect ourselves from hurt. Or because of pride – being perceived as “romantic” or “vulnerable” doesn’t jive with the image we want people to have of us. But love is the truest and most powerful and ancient manifestation of God’s image in His creation. It need not be studied, analyzed and dissected. We know what love is because He loves us. Choosing to be full participants in His love helps us remain whole even when love results in hurt, as it sometimes does.

Lord, help me to love fearlessly, freely, fiercely.

Just to prove a point

February 13th, 2016 by Maureen

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Prov. 17:27

There is a lot to be said for showing restraint. It’s not always necessary to challenge people with whom we disagree. Sometimes starting an argument says more about us than whether or not we present correct data or whether our logic is stronger. Sometimes relationships matter more than taking someone down just to prove a point. Sometime love and grace means showing restraint even when we are fairly certain that we are surrounded by idiots spreading idiocy.

Lord, help me to choose grace, love, and restraint over proving my point.

 

Pick the shiny one

February 10th, 2016 by Maureen

We look expectantly to God and our faces become radiant. We are not ashamed. Ps. 34:5

We can choose to operate in resistance mode or receiving mode. Resistance mode places the expectation to defeat sin on human effort. Focused on ourselves, we engage in a cycle of shame – regret- confession – determination – try harder – failure – more shame… Accepting, trusting, and expecting God’s grace and power to keep us, guide us, and transform us puts us in receiving mode. We enter the flow of His goodness and grace. We can keep trying to build our own fires from the sticks and stones of our human resistance; or we can receive a spark from His brilliant eternal flame and shine radiantly because He is radiant. The things that tempt us grow dim in receiving mode because Jesus is brighter than they are.

Lord, I pick receiving mode. It’s shinier!

Not my monkeys

February 9th, 2016 by Maureen

Blessed are the peacemakers. Jn. 5:9

not my circusThere are days when our monkeys get loose and we respond poorly. We feel internal turmoil that sometimes escapes through our eyes, our mouths, our hands and feet.  Even when we don’t intend to do it we create drama that leaks into the lives of those around us. Sometimes we are on the receiving end of the drama.  Peacemakers impart compassion, grace and peace when drama occurs. Compassion says “I know how you feel, I’ve dealt with unruly monkeys too.” Grace says “I love and accept you even though I’m uncomfortable with your response.” Peace says, “This really isn’t my circus and adding my drama to yours isn’t going to round up these monkeys, but I know Someone who can deal with these monkeys and I am referring you to Him.”

Lord, I know a lot of people dealing with a lot of unruly monkeys right now. Help me to impart Your peace to them while staying in Your perfect peace myself.

Praying to escape disaster isn’t the same as expecting something amazing

February 7th, 2016 by Maureen

Rejoice in hope, be patient in trouble, be constant in prayer. Rom 12:12

We sometimes relegate hope for a joyful outcome to the next life. Our prayers are often desperate pleas for God to head off our current version of the worst-case scenario and substitute it with some version of “acceptable loss.” Perhaps expressing our most joyful wishes, the best-case scenarios that we truly desire is a more spiritually and emotionally constructive way to pray. Such prayer recognizes this Christ renders redemptive, restorative, joyful impact of situations in this present life as well as in the life to come. Such prayers can cause the same sort of excited mouth-watering expectation we feel when we smell something new and we know it’s going to be delicious but haven’t actually tasted it. God gives good.

Lord, I want to see beyond my best-case scenario and participate in Yours.

 

When the love you are is greater than the love you give

February 5th, 2016 by Maureen

The person who does not love does not know God because God is love. 1 Jn 4:8

God doesn’t just do love, He is love. God expresses love (the verb) in action because God is love (the noun). In other words, love does because love is. With reminders and encouragement, we Christians are pretty good at “doing love.” We are nice to people, we serve, we give, and we generally try to respond to others according to descriptions of loving behavior we find in 1 Cor. 13 and other passages in scripture. Doing love has positive results but is it possible for “the same love with which the Father loves the Son was also in us” to dwell within us and among us in such a way that we can actually experience being the love we do?

Lord, so unite us in Your love that we cannot separate the love we do from the love we are.

How to live a good life

February 3rd, 2016 by Maureen

Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer. I Tim. 4:4-5

We can overindulge ourselves or unnecessarily deny ourselves when we lose perspective on the stuff we have, the activities we enjoy, and even the people in our lives. God intends for us to enjoy the lives He gave us as we fulfill His great commandment to love and His great commission to reveal Christ’s redemption. When we filter our choices through the Holy Spirit we can discover good ways to enjoy the good things our good God has provided and to trust that He can redeem everything else to His good Self.

Lord, help me to live like life is as good as You’ve made it. When things don’t look good, help me to recognize and embrace Your redemptive goodness rather than trying to impose my version of good.

Already gone

February 2nd, 2016 by Maureen

I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten. Joel 2:25; If anyone is is Christ the new has come and the old has gone. 2 Cor. 5:17; Behold I make all things new. Rev. 21:5

There is no loss, no baggage, no regret, no failure in our lives that Christ cannot restore. There is no old, used up, distorted, ragged, broken, torn, vermin-ridden mess in our lives that Christ cannot make new. In fact, because we are in Christ that shiny new restored life is already bestowed upon us through salvation and the old life is already gone.  It’s only from our perspective that it is not being realized. He has made us free to live the life He realizes for us.

Lord, help me to decide, to respond, to live, and to think based on what You have made new.