Health prescription: Happiness

September 7th, 2017 by Maureen

A cheerful heart is good medicine. Prov. 17:22

Science is catching up with this ancient wisdom. An article in Time  quotes one scientist’s conclusion: “Learning to enjoy your work, being more grateful and having really positive relationships are important.” A recently published study from Harvard concurs.

Ever wonder whether obsessing over healthy habits like diet or exercise or being less stressed might actually diminish the benefits of adopting those habits? Happiness can’t be the goal. It is a by-product that comes from living life fully engaged and fully present. God is the source of our gifts and talents that cause work to be enjoyable and fulfilling. God is the Giver of good things who responds to our gratitude with the joy of a Father and the resources of the Maker of heaven and earth. God is the love, the connective tissue that makes relationships even possible; and He is the Spirit that inspires empathy and belonging.

Lord, help me be more aware and responsive to Your presence and Your goodness as I live life.

Prayers for protection

September 6th, 2017 by Maureen

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. Ps. 5:11

Singing with joy is not our natural response to imminent danger or feeling threatened. It certainly doesn’t come easy when we experience loss. But God’s ability and His desire to protect us are incredibly powerful. He offers us a place of protection that is so safe that fear is unnecessary and maybe even unreasonable. Sometimes our perceptions of what constitutes protection might differ from what occurs, especially when we are focused on difficult circumstances or dealing with tangible messes we hoped to avoid. Sometimes it is the peace and joy in our hearts that needs protecting most.

Lord, I take refuge in You. I am safe because I know that You are always with me, in me and for me.

A plea for gentleness

September 5th, 2017 by Maureen

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger. Prov. 15:1

Many people in our culture seem to have the impression that communication that is strident and confrontational is somehow more effective. Being loud and angry might make people feel more powerful, but this is not the kind of power that creates lasting change in hearts, minds, or culture.  Gentleness takes a lighter touch. Gentleness listens, responds with respect and empathy, and creates rapport. Gentle responses open the door for genuine conversation. Gentleness allows people to consider one another as fellow human beings and to engage in civil consideration of one another’s ideas. Gentleness does not preclude disagreement, but tempers it with affection, humor, and common courtesy.

Lord, help the weary, the frustrated, and the wrathful, even those who believe they are justified in those feelings, to be able to hear Your gentle tone and to find the grace to use it with others.

Even if its not real, time is a relentless illusion

September 4th, 2017 by Maureen

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…. Ecc. 3:1-2

Is it really possible that the way human beings experience time is only an illusion? There is great debate in physics over how time works and whether time exists at all.

While I find this stuff fascinating, whatever its essence and however it works, we can’t ignore the way we humans experience time. The only time we can directly affect is now. The only moment we can actually experience love and grace and relationship is now. And yet we do reference our memories of past experiences and our hopes about the future in how we interpret and experience now. Births and deaths, seasons and decay, and our own aging selves are part of an observable flow of time and change that we experience. But often our perceptions about God’s perspective of time rather than our own observations influence our sense of meaning and purpose, and motivate our responses to whatever is going on in the present. What we believe about God and eternity affects how we perceive and experience time.

Lord, I’m trusting You with all my time, my life, and my being because experiencing You makes everything else more real.

Disrupting the other pride

September 2nd, 2017 by Maureen

Pride goes before destruction. A haughty spirit goes before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18

This post isn’t about attitudes full of hubris, prideful, cavalier overconfidence, or ruthless entitlement. We all know that stuff is poison. There is a kind of pride that is appropriate and important to our mental and emotional health. Human beings need to experience that sense of meaning, worth, and honor that is sometimes called pride. Sometimes our introspection detours us into the other kind of pride because we can’t find the constructive kind of pride within ourselves. Sometimes we depend on recognition from others to derive this kind of pride. Sometimes we may even feel the need to self-promote to others or to challenge others’ priorities or perceptions in order to get the responses we want from others. Suppose we choose to seek God’s image, His creativity and intelligence, His grace and goodness in ourselves and in each other. Suppose we chose to see ourselves and one another in that way.

Lord, help me to experience the humility that can derive pride from You rather than struggling to find it in myself or demanding it from others. Fill me with the pride that goes with restoration.

Swim with the current

September 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed, and shaken, and running over will fall into your lap; with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:39

When we pour love, grace, generosity, and justice out into the world we experience abundance. I don’t think what we gain from giving is a reward for doing good. Or karma. Doing something just so we get back seems kind of self-serving and not at all like Jesus. Perhaps, instead, giving is participation in Who God Is. When we become aware of His love and grace, when we choose to swim with the current of the love that caused the Father to send His Son, our spirits will naturally be swept into the experience of His abundance and bounty. When we see ourselves as the source of what we give it’s easy to become stingy and worry about running out. When we are in Christ and He in us, we are part of an infinite flow of resources coming from Him.

Lord, if Your love is an ocean, I want to go where the current takes me.

neither height, nor depth, nor Harvey can separate us from the love of God

August 30th, 2017 by Maureen

for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things about to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38-39

The flood waters cannot get high enough to separate us from the love of God. Destruction, lack of help, loss of health or resources or home or even loved ones is not an indicator of God’s abandonment or lack of love. Indeed the heart of God is to heal, to help, to restore. Sometimes big emergencies are the times when we hear His heartbeat the loudest and tap into its rhythm. Standing in the sunshine on a beautiful, I’m reminded that just a few miles south there are not. And yet God loves them just as much as He loves me.

Lord thank you for all Your hands and feet on the ground and in the water helping and healing.

Respond with comfort and compassion

August 28th, 2017 by Maureen

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Cor. 1:4

So many people need to be comforted right now.  In essence, God has partially outsourced compassion and comfort to human beings. Our impulse to help others comes from the image of His love and compassion in us. It comes from remembering how it feels to be comforted. His love becomes tangible as we reach out to comfort and help hurting people. We develop the art of comforting as when we experience God’s comfort directly, when we receive God’s comfort through the love of other human beings, and when we witness it being given to others in need. Reaching out can come in the form of our time, labor, resources, money, encouragement, companionship, and/or prayer. There is no one way or “right” way to comfort and help. Sometimes our best response is supporting those who can help most effectively. Let us comfort in whatever ways God inspires us.

Lord, help me deliver compassion and comfort in ways that reveal Your love.

Shelter in a storm

August 26th, 2017 by Maureen
As the passing by of a hurricane, so the evil is not, but the righteous have a lasting foundation. Prov. 10:25
There are times when it feels like our lives are blowing away board by board like a house in a hurricane. The love of God shelters us like the safe room where we run for protection in a storm. His love is staked so deep that it cannot be uprooted by wind or circumstance. Our hearts cannot be flooded out by tears or trouble because we are His children and He is our foundation.
Sweet Friend, Loving Father, Shelter in all Storms, when I feel vulnerable help me know that I am attached to Your invulnerable foundation.

Partial eclipse of the heart

August 24th, 2017 by Maureen

In the beginning… was the Word [Jesus]…and in Him [Jesus] is life and that life is the light of humanity. The light shone in the darkness but the darkness didn’t perceive it. Jn. 1:1,4-5

Jesus cannot be eclipsed by the darkness. The light that is Christ has always been. He shone at the creation of the world. He was shining when the first creeping darkness cast its shadow on creation. In the moments when it looked like darkness would overtake the whole world, Christ has always been that spirit of mercy, that gesture of love that overtakes prevailing hate. In the moments of confusion and emptiness when the light in our hearts feel eclipsed by pain, fear, loss, and evil, Christ is that fleeting thought of truth and goodness, that sliver of hope that persists. His is the voice that speaks love and grace, reason and truth so we never have to perceive total darkness.

Lord, help my eyes to perceive Your light when things look dark.

Unchained hearts

August 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

Even if our hearts condemn, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things. 1 Jn. 20

When we mess up it is easy to let feelings of failure and guilt define us. We may measure ourselves against other people who appear to have it more together than we do. Comparison can make us feel like “less.” Fortunately God has a perfect perspective on each of our situations. He doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves or the way we see each other. Christ releases us from condemnation; we don’t owe Him guilt. Christ redeems us; we don’t owe Him restitution. God looks on our true hearts, not the feelings and thoughts that come from our faulty perceptions of ourselves and others. God transforms, redeems, and restores and He wants us to experience that transformation, redemption, and restoration as the real state of our hearts.

Thank you for the peace and confidence that keeps me moving forward, even when I lose some ground.

Restoration takes longer, is much harder, and costs more than demolition

August 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Cover all other virtues with love, which is the uniting principle that results in completeness.
Let the peace of Christ be the ruling principle in your hearts. Col. 3:14-15

It is very difficult to meet the anger, rage, slander, abusive language, and lies that permeate our culture with mercy, goodwill, kindness, unpretentiousness, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.

It seems as if the Architect has handed us the tools for restoration rather than demolition. Restoration is a more painstaking and tedious process than tearing down and rebuilding. Sanding off layers of ugliness to uncover beauty creates a bond that swinging a hammer and discarding the rubble does not. In our culture right now many people, and understandably so, have grown impatient and annoyed with the pace of “progress,” however they define or envision “progress.” If the only goal is to move the needle for change, it doesn’t matter what kind of strategies are employed, what motives or agendas drive the people who lead, or who is destroyed in the process. If the goal is restoration then how we encourage and achieve change matters very much. In Colossians 3 Paul calls out destructive attitudes and expressions (Col. 3:8) and calls for restorative attitudes and expressions (Col. 3:1-13). God loves everyone we disagree with, everyone who has ever hurt us, everyone who wants to destroy us, everyone who is yet to experience His love and grace. When we focus on destroying what we hate rather than restoring what we love, people God loves end up on the rubbish heap with the ideologies and practices we rightly need to discard.

Lord, help me to express Your beautiful restorative love and grace in what I stand for and how I stand there.

Love child by heredity and environment

August 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Beloved, let us love one another, because the love is of God, and everyone who is loving, of God has been γεννάω (begotten) and knows God. 1 Jn. 4:7 YLT

In this familiar verse “γεννάω” is traditionally translated “born of God” but “begotten” is the literal translation of “γεννάω.” It shares a root word with “procreate.” Think of the implications of this. We are more than fallen-natured strays who are lucky enough to be adopted into God’s house. Instead we are begotten of God. We inherit the spiritual DNA of the Father who γεννάω us. And love is the primary trait of those with this DNA. Love is also God’s environment. Knowing Him influences us to respond to others from the environment where we live.

Lord, let me respond to others out of the the heritage of love You give me as Your child.

Being misunderstood is not a virtue

August 14th, 2017 by Maureen

The reason the world does not understand* us is because it did not understand Jesus. 1 Jn. 1:3b

Grace reflects the love of a Father who wants to be known and sent His Son to reveal Himself to the world.
Grace communicates the motives and message of this Father’s children.
Sometimes we equate being misunderstood with being like Jesus when what we may need is a gut check concerning our motives, messages, or methods. There is no inherent virtue in..

…being confusing or misunderstood.
…oversimplification.
…rejecting intellect or emotion.
…making intellect or emotion paramount.
…taking action for action’s sake.
…remaining static to avoid misinterpretation.
…remaining silent to avoid conflict.
…replacing work and doing for engaging mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
…using prayer and study to avoid engaging physically or relationally.
…expressing ideas about God without communicating His love, peace, hope, and mercy.

The messages about the Father and His Son that His children communicate and the motives with which we communicate them do affect the way the world sees and responds to God.

May His children express His great love with the confidence that comes with experiencing it themselves. May that love inspire more and more to discover His love and call themselves His children.

Love in a state of continuous discovery and amazement

August 13th, 2017 by Maureen

See what great love the Father has given us that we may be called children of God. The reason the world does not know or understand* us is that it did not know or understand Him. 1 Jn. 3:1

What we gain through calling ourselves His children is intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and experiential love.
We are always in a state of ginōskō , recognizing the familiar from His perspective, perceiving God in new ways, always learning and gaining understanding as our relationships with our Father grow and the realization of what it means to be His children settles in us. All we discover through knowing Him is permeated with His great love. If we want to help others in the world to recognize that they, too, can call themselves His children, it is most likely that trying to explain the tangibles and reasoning behind what we think we know will be less effective than communicating His great love.

Lord I want to know Your love more deeply and fully myself and to help others experience what it means to be your child.

ginōskō  tr. “know” also means “to understand, to recognize, to perceive, to see”

The greatest love

August 13th, 2017 by Maureen

See what great love the Father has given us that we may be called children of God. The reason the world does not know or understand* us is that it did not know or understand Him. 1 Jn. 3:1

What we gain through calling ourselves His children is intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and experiential love.
We are always in a state of ginōskō , recognizing the familiar from His perspective, perceiving God in new ways, always learning and gaining understanding as our relationships with our Father grow and the realization of what it means to be His children settles in us. All we discover through knowing Him is permeated with His great love. If we want to help others in the world to recognize that they, too, can call themselves His children, it is most likely that trying to explain the tangibles and reasoning behind what we think we know will be less effective than communicating His great love.

Lord I want to know Your love more deeply and fully myself and to help others experience what it means to be your child.

ginōskō  tr. “know” also means “to understand, to recognize, to perceive, to see”

 

The greatest go-to ever

August 12th, 2017 by Maureen

As the Father has loved me, I love you. Remain, abide, in my love. John 15:9

God equips us with His love as a go-to for whatever we encounter.
Love can be the idea that informs how we process and respond to the things that happen around us and to us.
Love can be the emotional connection that guides our interactions with others.
Love can be the spiritual light that connects us to God and all He created.
Sometimes stress and habit cause us to detour into our old go-to responses because love response feels unfamiliar.
If our past automatic responses to hurt, threat, or confusion have been despair, fear, or anger,
if our past relationships have been mired in unforgiveness, suspicion, or power,
if our past spiritual experience has been rooted in law and shame,
we might respond in ways that obscure how we experience and communicate His love.
Remaining and abiding is about our perceptions, experiences, and responses.
Such detours can’t move us out of God love, though. Nothing can.

Lord help me to remember go-to love when my heart, mind, and spirit start to detour.

Health 101: stay hydrated and rested

August 9th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus stood up and said, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me and drink! Whoever believes in me, as it is written, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Jn. 7:37-38

The human soul requires hydration just as much as the human body does. Christ is the source of refreshing, life-sustaining  nourishment. It is like a river that flows through us, hydrating our spirits. If we start feeling parched it could be that we’ve forgotten or just been too busy, to stop and drink. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do for ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually is to take time to rest and drink.

Lord, I’m stopping by this river. Fill my soul and my life with Your living water.

Creative naming

August 8th, 2017 by Maureen

God formed every creature on earth and brought them to the man to see what what he would name them. Gen 2:19

God invited humans into His creation process. Naming something requires use of creativity and imagination. Naming something adds to language. Naming assigns description, meaning, and context to the word we use to name something. Sensory associations like shapes, colors, sounds, and smells become attached to the word we use to name something. We participate in God’s creativity as we use our experiences with these named things to create art, to convey metaphoric meaning, and to make other useful and beautiful items that we also name.

Naming can elevate and individuate so that the full force of God’s creative energy, love, and delight is expressed. Naming a child provides one of the earliest markers of identity. Naming an animal tends to cause us to form emotional attachments and assign greater importance to that specific animal. If naming makes something important, then when we label and categorize in order to depersonalize and devalue or when we use words that already have negative connotations to name something, or someone, we are unnaming them.

Lord, inspire me to name things and to associate thoughts with those names that express how much You love and value all You have made.

Of rocks and roosters

August 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Upon this rock… Matt. 16:8 I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me. Matt. 26:34

Jesus: Peter, who do you say that I am?
Peter: Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God!
Jesus: On this rock I will build my church…” Matt. 16:15-18
Fast forward
Jesus: “Before the rooster crows Peter, you will deny me three times…”
Peter: “I don’t know what you mean…I don’t know the man…I don’t know the man.”
The rooster crows. Peter remembers Jesus’ words and goes somewhere he can weep in private. Matt 26:69-75
Fast forward
Peter stood before a crowd in Jerusalem and lifted his voice… Acts 2:14

Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Son of God is the rock on which the church is built, not Peter himself. Later Peter walked on water then sunk, cut off a man’s ear to defend Jesus and got corrected for it, wimped out on the the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, and was picked to preach the first public sermon to the crowds after the Upper Room experience that launched the new faith. We all have rock moments and rooster moments. God defines us by Christ not by those moments. Neither our rocks nor our roosters have to power to change God’s love for us, our status as His children, or His desire or ability to express His love, grace, and truth through us. We do have the power to choose how to process our rock and rooster experiences. Roosters crow to wake us up, not to accuse us. Feeling the rock under our feet gives us confidence, perspective, and solid place to stand; we don’t have to be the rock.

Lord, thank you that I can experience restoration and transformation in all my rock and rooster moments.