Today is the second day of September and we are having a big heat wave here in the bay area. I know it has happened before, but it is rare for us to get temperatures over 100 all over the area. We are spoiled because of the temperate climate here.. very few extremes. It is easy to be comfortable in this area since our lifestyle allows us to see so much beauty and we rarely face disasters like they are facing right now in Texas. The flooding we have been watching all week is a reminder that things can change in an instant. No matter how much we try to be in control of our lives, we are not able to predict the future. It seems to me that the Lord continues to remind us of His sovereignty through natural disasters and personal tragedies.
More and more of my conversations seem to center around trials and tests that people are facing. Even here in our county.. things are changing. With so many people moving to the bay area over the last 10 years.. our highways are crowded and there is litter everywhere. Our quiet protected area is not so quiet or protected. People are struggling here with finances, health, and family problems. In order to live here.. there are not enough jobs and the housing situation is unbelievable.. who can afford to be here? I know we can’t.. but God has us here and He continues to confirm that. Our family is here and we support one another. My husband has lived here since he was born and I have been in this area for 50 years.. Yes we are getting older every day:) Many of our friends are gone, they have either moved away or passed away.. it is a bit lonely at times. Aging is challenging in a youth oriented culture and unfortunately the church is the same way. We have found ourselves feeling left behind and in some cases cast aside.
The good news is that these experiences do not define us. Our identity is in the Lord and He continues to affirm our worth and value. Because of the challenges we face.. I am more confident that it is not what I do, or who I know or what people think that defines me. I am His and that is what matters. Our circumstances continually change.. tomorrow it could be snowing here and Texas may experience a heat wave that dries up the land quickly. Tomorrow could bring a scary diagnosis for us or someone we love.. or tomorrow someone may be healed right in front of us.. reminding us of who is in control.. every day.. every single hour. We are not alone or forgotten..we are never abandoned or cast off. He remembers us.. comforts us.. holds us as we lean into Him in these times.
Father.. I pray for everyone reading this that they may experience more of you as this day unfolds. I pray for your spirit to be poured out on us as we cling to you in these trying times. We long to draw closer to your heart.. teach us how to do that.. protect us and guide us each day as we trust you.
Whenever I think of summer… somehow I begin to remember my childhood.. summer went on forever and it was amazing. School was out so there were no deadlines..we had time to swim, ride bikes, take vacations and my favorite of all.. the beach! Those days are long gone.. but the memories are still intact.. I long for that sense of timelessness and that joy of wandering along the boardwalk at the beach. It was amazing to be free of those things that challenged me at school.. not so much the schoolwork, but the long days in the classroom and the social dynamics with the other kids. I probably would have a been a great candidate for homeschooling if that had existed back then.. just stay home and learn everything from mom.. after all she had a Phd in psychology.. it probably would have been amazing. My grand kids are experiencing that right now. they get to learn from their very well educated mother.. I am so thankful that this is happening for them.
So this year.. my goal is to truly experience summer as an adult even though the responsibilities do not stop and the challenges are not taking a break. But summer is here in full bloom.. all the summer fruit is out and it is sooo good!! The sun shines brightly and the skies are blue. When there are clouds, they are wonderful.. designed by God to encourage us.. the sunsets too. We live on a hill and during July the sunsets tend to be very beautiful with orange and pink skies spreading out in all directions. We went on a hike today.. it was hot and I am not as young as I used to be, but so grateful that I can still hike and enjoy the smells of the trees and the beauty of this area. God is so good. He allows us special moments throughout our lives.. moments to enjoy and appreciate the life He has given us.
His creation is a gift to us and summer is a great time to take it in. I feel the longing to be back in those early years.. to experience the endless summer.. but I know there is more ahead that we realize.. someday we will experience things even more glorious than those summers of childhood and we won’t grow up and leave them behind. God has a plan for us that includes a future in His presence where we can enjoy creation in an unlimited way and it will be much better than summer!
” I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”…(mark 10:15)
I love this time of year.. after a long rainy winter, we are finally getting some beautiful weather and the first signs of spring are here. All my potted plants are showing signs of life.. it is always a surprise when I see that they survived so much rain and I never managed to transplant them.. yet they are coming back again. Their conditions are less than ideal.. but they persevere..reminds me of our lives.
We live in less than ideal circumstances.. yet every spring we can look ahead with hope and trust that the Lord has new things for us in this season. The hardships of winter may have beaten us down.. but there are signs of new growth.. signs of life. I don’t know about you.. but I need to have hope for the future.. to believe that there are going to be surprises.. things that God is going to do that I never expected..I try to make a point of noticing those things when they happen.. even if they are very small things.. like my rose bushes looking exceptionally healthy this year.. almost ready to bloom.. a precious gift from God.
Easter is coming in two weeks.. a time of celebration.. rejoicing in what the Lord has done for us. We have this time to begin to savor each day and to be thankful for this life.. to pray and ask for restoration and healing.. to seek a greater glimpse of His goodness. This is a special time and I don’t want to waste it looking back at the disappointments..the desire of my heart is to experience the abundant life of John 10:10 every single day in the midst of the challenges and trials.. He is always with us and always pouring out His love into our hearts.. time to drink deeply of the Living Water.. to fill up so we can pour out that love to others.. Let it be so Lord!
A conversation I had with a friend this morning made me think deeply about choices. We have so many of them in this world. Everyday we are choosing without even knowing it. The Lord gave us free will and He gave us a mind. Both of these enable us to choose.. He seems to be very in favor of that or He would not have created us with the ability to choose so freely. I realize that there are people who think we should choose everything that feels good with no regard for anyone else.. I am definitely not in that camp. Then there are those who believe if you do not choose what I choose.. then something is very wrong with you.. not in that camp either. Choices are very serious and they are messy.
What prompted this blog post was the realization that we may have more choices than we realize.. maybe we feel like if we don’t choose wisely right now.. this could be our last chance. While I realize that there are grave consequences to choices made lightly without careful prayer and seeking God’s best.. I also know we are serve a God of second chances. third chances etc. Basically we cannot run out of chances with Him. So how do we navigate this road which often feels like it is full of potholes? I can’t claim to have all the answers.. but I do know that we live in a world where the Lord is constantly redeeming things. I also know that so many of the heroes of the Bible did really unbelievable things.. in fact if we were in charge we might say to them.. ” that is it.. no more chances.” Fortunately we are not in charge and that is not how God sees things.. He does not run out of grace and mercy.. even we take a wrong turn He will steer us back in the right direction.
So choosing is an awesome responsibility .. God knows that through our choices we will see Him more clearly.. even the bad choices. He knows that we will learn to seek Him more deeply as we choose.. if we desire to follow Him throughout our lives and He does not have a list of consequences we can read before we decide. Choices are deeply entrenched into our life.. we are walking by faith and not by sight. Choices tell the Lord we trust Him even if everyone around us thinks we are crazy.. Choices knit us to Him in a way that rules and regulations never will. We are given freedom.. lots of it.
Really the only thing we can do is pray and seek Him and ask Him to stop us when we are moving in the wrong direction. Then we can shut out of the voices of well-meaning people or how- to books and leap ahead in the direction that is right for us. Once we realize that if we fall He will catch us.. We can ask for courage and turn away from fear as we move forward..
I hope this year is one filled with hope for you as we move into 2017.. may you choose wisely as you follow our amazing God.
If you wander from the right path, either to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, “You should go this way. Here is the right way.” ( Isaiah 30:21)
This is a line from a story in the Jesus Storybook Bible.. a book that was read to the children every Sunday during our worship service. Yesterday at church, our pastor said that those stories from that book were the first sermon and his preaching was the second sermon. He quoted that line from the book ” He was making the sad things come untrue“.. I love that ! It makes me smile to think of everything sad becoming untrue as the kingdom of God moves ahead. What an amazing promise He has given us.
The same thing is happening here every single day.. sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t. The truth is the truth whether we are able to see it or not. God’s invisible kingdom is real.. more real than all the sad things that happen on this earth every single day. His kingdom is more real than every single problem we face.. even the ones that seem unbearable. His kingdom is more real than our feelings, our thoughts, or our ideas. What an amazing realization that is.. if only we could hang on to that picture. There is another story.. a larger story that surrounds us and God is the author. He has written it for us and He is with us in that story.. guiding us, protecting us, comforting us, and encouraging us. We are not alone in what seems to be our small sad story.
As I am writing this I feel like I want to grab on to that big story.. to live in it fully.. to have a larger role.. to enter the Kingdom of God in a deeper way.. following Him fully.. trusting Him totally.. even when I have no answers.. even when I am hurting.. lost and sad. I want to be a part of His great work in this world as He redeems everything that was lost. I believe He is asking us all to enter in.. to seek Him and His ways.. to believe that He is totally in control.. when all we see is an out of control world … As we live in these times.. we are in the world that He entered.. something has already happened.. but there is more.. we are between the already and the not yet.. living in that very unsettled place.. He is our rock and our safe place.. there is no other.
He told us to ” Seek Him and His kingdom and all else would be added on to us” He meant it then and He means it now..
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”
Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs.You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.“
It is really springtime again.. I never feel quite sure until May appears..than I feel safe saying winter is over! We came back from a long weekend away this afternoon and as we looked up we saw beautiful fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky.. the fields along the highway were a vivid green dotted with patches of yellow wild mustard. I could see the Lord’s handiwork all around me.. it was very comforting. God’s love for us revealed in creation.
It was a weekend of reminders for me. We went to a very special wedding.. one that was full of amazing surprises.. I could see God’s fingerprints all over this union. He brought these two people together and it was clear that His love drew them to one another. He was transforming their lives and it flowed over each of us watching the ceremony…we stood in awe of His redeeming work. I had a similar experience at another family gathering last December.. as I looked around the room I could see how the hand of the Lord had been at work healing broken lives and relationships. His hand of redemption on our family.
God is at work even when we can’t see a single thing He is doing. Suddenly He allows us a glimpse into the lives He is restoring.. a glimpse of His healing touch. Spring is like that for me.. all winter long I wonder how I will make it through my least favorite season.. too many hours inside waiting for the weather to warm up… too many grey skies.. short days and long nights.. Suddenly the season changes and I realize He has been working in the dark.. behind the scenes.. getting things ready for the new things that He is going to reveal.. Spring is here.. winter is over.. Hope is renewed!
Since I was writing about my journey through Lent this year.. I wanted to follow-up now that it is over and we are moving on to the post Easter season. What happened to me during that time when I was off Facebook and focusing more on the Lord.. reading the Bible more consistently and art journaling every day? Actually a lot happened and I am not sure I totally understand it all. One thing I can say is that God balanced me out and showed me the need for more self-control. He revealed areas in my life that were not working well and prompted me to decide that I wanted to change…to pray for Him to lead me to new places emotionally and spiritually.
So.. I can see growth and I felt the growing pains while it was happening. The challenge now will be to keep my focus and to stay true to the insights He has given me. Growth is a continual process. The first step is the desire to change and then we must take time to focus on ourselves..some people may object to that. They will think.. isn’t that being selfish? In reality it is very unselfish. When you take the time to reflect on your own behavior and to seek healing.. instead of being content with being stuck in familiar patterns.. you are actually choosing the better path. We can’t be a true friend, spouse, parent etc unless we are healthy and healed.
If we give because it is the “christian” thing to do and never stop to examine our behavior, we become depleted and often this is motivated by our need to be needed. So..as I stepped out of time for 40 days God had the opportunity to work deeply to show me the ways that I was being too concerned about others and He reminded me that I need to let go… He showed me my own selfishness which was disguised in my consuming passion to help people.. the down side to those of us with compassionate hearts. This was not a new revelation, but it went deeper this time and I am hopeful that I won’t return to the old patterns.
I am sharing this with you because I suspect that you may have the same issue. You can check in with yourself to see if this is relevant. Do you feel guilty for wanting time to yourself? Are you constantly feeling pressured to give more ( either in church, from friends or coming from your own internal voice)? Have you lost touch with yourself.. your likes and dislikes.. your desires and your dreams. If so.. then you need a season free from too many responsibilities with free time to sit with the Lord .. allowing Him to restore you and teach you how to care for yourself. It is essential to life in our very crazy culture.. take time to be still.. to pray and to seek healing. Don’t listen to any accusing voices.. and don’t feel guilty. God wants this for you..
Remember who said this...“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.“