Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Sea and its Waves: A Sign of the End.

My blogger friend Kal wrote about "sea foam" that was on the beaches of Australia after a cyclone hit. I'd never heard of it before so I looked it up. Here is a picture:

It is an amazing sight. As I looked at this I thought about the recent trouble on the Eastern Seaboard and how the sea came inland. The terrible storms at sea are becoming worse each year. Tidal waves and storm surges are happening all over the world.

I remembered what Jesus said when speaking of the end of the world, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and there will be distress on earth among the nations that are confused by the roaring of the sea and its waves." Luke 21:25

I used to read that verse long ago and think, "This has not happened in the sea yet." But now it has. The nations are concerned about the sea and its waves. The storms at sea have been the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths in the last few years.

We don't know what will happen when the heavenly bodies will be shaken. That is yet to come, but it will come.

Jesus went on, "Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

Now Jesus tells us to look up and be glad,  "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Perfect House - A Perfect Person.

My husband and I live in our daughter's house. We moved in to help look after her children while she was at work. I also home-schooled her youngest daughter. The children are teenagers now and my daughter is selling her house.

We have had to keep the house looking perfect for the realtors and any potential buyers. As I was working today, trying to make my apartment look pristine, I thought how hard it was to keep every room looking perfect every day.

That reminded me of how I tried to keep myself perfect when I was a young Christian. I was 19 and so happy to have accepted Christ, but then I began to work on myself to not sin. It was a difficult - well, impossible task. No matter how hard I tried I still made mistakes and did wrong.

I finally realized that I was looking at myself all the time. In the same way I was looking at the rooms of my house for some imperfection, I was looking at my sins and concentrating on them instead of Jesus. I was feeling guilty and condemned, when those feelings were not helpful and not the way God wanted me to feel. Conviction of sin is good but feeling condemned is not.

Now, when I sin I confess it to God, say I am sorry, ask for His help and then forget it. If I have hurt anyone's feelings I say I'm sorry to them too. It is freeing to look away from myself and upward to God.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Staying Inside my Hula Hoop."

I was reading a study on Abraham by Vela Tomba. I liked how she compared our lives with hula hoops.

"Staying in my hula hoop means accepting God’s limits for who I am, where I end and another person starts. Doing what He has called me to do inside my sphere of influence—inside my hula hoop and not meddling in someone else’s hula hoop.

I can most easily stay in my hula hoop when I have the right understanding of who God is, when I trust Him, when I know Him, when I trust His loving kindness for me."  Vela Tomba

Abraham and Sarah using Hagar to have a child was a move outside their hula hoops. They crashed into Hagar's hula hoop.

I tried thinking of times when I left my hula hoop. I went through a period of drinking a lot because I didn't trust God to help me to cope with my sadness. When I drank, my hula hoop knocked into my husband's hoop. He had a hard time coping with my drinking.

Limits: It is hard for a parent to keep out of their grown kid's hula hoops. I have sometimes meddled with my daughter's hoops. They didn't appreciate it.

I think for me that "worry" pushes me out of my hula hoop. Yesterday, I talked with my sister Liz about finding a new place to live and how hard it will be because of the money. Then I said I would leave it with God and knew He would show us what to do and help us.

Liz said, "We've had this same conversation three times. Why do you keep saying the same thing?"

I said, "My faith is weak. I start thinking about the move and the money and I get scared. Then I have to tell myself all over again that God will take care of everything." Nope, I'm not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

I think judging and criticising people can make their hula hoops teeter and even fall to the ground. I think we all have memories of someone doing that to us and the effect it had.

So, with the grace of God,  let's all stay in our own hula hoops!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Love is as Strong as Death.

Song of Solomon 8:6,7

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;"

The Bride says this to the bridegroom, (or a believer to God) "As in So 8:5, she was "leaning" on Him, that is, her arm on His arm, her head on His bosom; so she prays now that before they part, her impression may be graven both on His heart and His arm, answering to His love and His power."

 "...for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."

I thought about love being as strong as death and this made so much sense to me. If someone you love dies you still love him the same. You never stop loving him. Love survives the death of a loved one. The love God has for us surpasses our physical death.

"Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned."

Imagine if someone offered you a million dollars to stop loving your son or daughter. That offer would be "utterly scorned". Imagine if someone offered you a million dollars to turn your back on Christ - that offer would also be scorned. Real love is so deep, so strong, so sure that nothing can move it.

 "If a rich man's whole estate was offered for it, to a lover of Christ; yea, the riches of the Indies, or the vast treasures of the whole globe, on condition of his parting with Christ, and deserting his cause and interest, and dropping or neglecting his love to him, it would be treated by him with the, almost disdain and contempt; "

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Comparing Ourselves with Each Other.

"We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves, they are not wise." 
2 Corinthians 10:12

I recently read a book by a Christian teacher. He told the story of his younger brother who went to fight in Vietnam. He came back a drug addict and mentally disturbed by what he had seen and done. When he got home, he went to church and gave his heart to God. But he was badly damaged and his life went downhill until he got a job in commercial fishing. He liked this life since it gave him some solitude. The last time his older brother talked with him he asked him how his Christian walk was going. He answered that he still believed but that living the Christian life was very hard for him. Days later he was found dead of drugs and alcohol.

The teacher said in his book how we are all different. Some of us can be used in God's ministry. Others of us can barely make it through life. He says it isn't our fault and we cannot judge or compare ourselves to others. 

I agree with that. I'm a damaged person with many mental problems. I could never be a Joyce Meyer or Billy Graham. It used to bother me that I couldn't do what others could do. It bothered me I came from abuse and a dysfunctional home. But now I don't care. I've realized I can relate to others who have the same problems as me.

The people of my old church probably think I am a lost soul since I no longer go to church due to my social phobias. I also smoke and I used to drink a lot in order to dull the pain. I think gay marriage is fine - I believe in the freedoms God gave us. We are not a theocracy - we are a democracy. I don't fit the Christian mold and that`s okay.  If I compared myself to others, I would look pretty bad - so I try to never, ever do it.

The only person I compare myself to is Jesus. I do ask myself, "What would Jesus do?" then try to do it to the best of my ability and with the grace God has given me. I don't get discouraged when I compare myself to Jesus because he is God and I am just a human being and I know he is patient and forgiving.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Unanswered Prayer?

A book I was reading talked about "unanswered prayer". I've never understood this concept. I believe every prayer is answered. He says, "Yes" or "No". Some people teach he also says, "Wait". Okay, I guess that is right too.

In my mind, if you have been praying for something for twenty years and it hasn't happened then the answer is "No" and you should accept that.

I remember years ago praying for money to rain down upon my husband and me. I had never prayed for money like that before, just for help when we needed to pay for something, but now most of my family members needed money. Some had cars break down and needed a car. Some needed their credit cards paid. Many needs, many different prayers. I thought if God just gave me tons of money I could help everyone.

I also thought that it didn't hurt to ask. I thought, "God can do anything. I know I can ask for anything and he says "Yes" to most of my prayers so...

After a few weeks of praying for this miracle, God spoke to my mind in a very strong manner. As I was praying for this I felt something in my head - like: bang! Then I heard God say, "Don't pray for this again."

It was very clear. Since then, I've thought about how Moses begged God to let him go over to the promised land. God said, "Enough! Speak to me no more of this matter."

I've never asked for money again. I've seen my family struggle, but maybe they need to struggle! I'm sure there are lessons from life they need to learn - the way I learned, the hard way. Maybe they need to learn to turn to God in their troubles and if they didn't have trouble they might not turn to Him. I don't know, but knowing God, I know he has good reasons for everything he does. I don't consider my prayer unanswered. His answer was very clear!

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Need A Friend.

I read in a book last night that we should be careful how we speak to God.

He said we need to understand how big God is and to be awestruck by that.

But right here, right now, I need a friend.

I have a family who loves me, but I need a friend.

Someone I can be myself with; someone I can say anything to.

Yes, I need a friend who loves me no matter what I do or say.

God is my friend.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Behind the Messiness of Life.

I liked this picture for this verse because although it may sometimes look like our lives are messy, they aren't. God is working in our lives each step of the way and when we look back we will see how everything worked together. 

The picture also reminded me of an alter. The godly ones in the Old Testament used to build alters to remember what God had done for them and to thank Him. I'm thinking of making a little alter like this to remember all He has done for me.

Born of the Spirit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An Unbeliever's Prayer.

I'm reading, "The Unlikely Disciple", by Kevin Roose. He is a 19 year old liberal who doesn't believe in God and decides to attend Liberty College, which was established by Jerry Falwell, for one semester. He wants to go with an open mind and write about the experience. He expects to dislike the students and faculty.

It is a fascinating book. He learns that he really likes most of the people there. He doesn't agree with most of their beliefs but he wants to understand them. There is so much to the book that I can't do it justice here, but I wanted to share the bit he wrote about prayer. He says the students pray at the drop of a hat. They pray about everything and for everyone. He finally decides to pray on his own and see what happens. He starts by praying for everyone he knows and this is what happens:

"First, all my problems snap into perspective. Compared to a girl whose step-father was in a mine accident or an old lady having her hip replaced, nothing in my life seems all that pressing. Instead of obsessing over the History of Life quiz I bombed or the parking ticket I got, I'm focusing more and more on people with real hardships. I put myself in the shoes of the guy in my hall who just totaled his car on the freeway or my aunt Cindy, whose house in California just burned down. Eventually, I go back to worrying about my tiny problems - I can't help it - but for those thirty minutes (of prayer) I'm at least going through the motions of compassion.

Second, the compassion I dig up during those thirty minutes sometimes carries over to the rest of my day."

Kevin finds himself writing a letter to a friend at his former university consoling him because he was going through a hard time. His friend wrote back and said the letter brought tears to his eyes and lifted his spirits. Kevin says he felt so good afterwards - like he was "glowing" - and spent the next hours doing small acts of kindness and being more friendly.

I haven't finished reading the book yet and I am hoping for him to ask God into his life, but even if he doesn't make that step yet, he has certainly learned a lot about God and Christians.

The one major negative in his experience has been the way people talk about homosexuals. Gay people are people God loves as he loves everyone and the disrespect and insults aimed at these souls is terrible at the university. That being said, I have to say my ideas of far-right Christians has changed. They are, for the most part, terrific people and loving Christians. This book showed me once again how I should never, ever judge people. That is not my job and I usually get it wrong.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Are Christians Blind Sheep?

Photo by Sogning

I know that a lot of people think Christians are kind of stupid to believe what we believe. They picture us as uneducated and like sheep who follow our pastors and churches and don't think or study for ourselves. 

People who think this are wrong for the most part. There are Christians who don't study the Bible for themselves, but I would think that is a minority. What we have found in the Bible and in God is a knowledge and wisdom of what is important in the great scheme of life. The more we know God, the more we can see his goodness and the wisdom in all that he does. We see the reason for our existence, which most people are confused about. The closer we get to God, the more the direction and aims of our lives fall into place. 

Sometimes we are confused, sometimes we doubt, but we can go to God with our questions and He will answer them all. One of my greatest joys is asking God the why of something, waiting for an answer and then getting the answer. I love knowing He cares about all my thoughts. 

When I read the Bible, I can see the great wisdom of God because if all the people in the world followed His teachings they would be peacemakers, benevolent to the poor, helping the sick, giving without thought of getting back. There would be no war, poverty or hunger. We would all share what we have with each other. There would be no murder, no stealing, and no hatred. There would be justice and love for all people. 

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding.—PROV.3:13.

Whoso finds me finds life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might: . . . but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord.—The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.—In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.—Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.

Christ Jesus, . . . is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
He that wins souls is wise.
Prov.8:35.Jer.9:23,24. -Prov.9:10.Phi.3:7,8. -Col.2:3.--Prov.8:14.I Cor.1:30.Prov.11:30.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

He is Special - We are Special.

As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.
Photo by Cillas

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. 

With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Sustain me with raisin cakes, Refresh me with apples, Because I am lovesick.

He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love.

His left hand is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.

Song of Solomon 2:2-6

I love the Song of Solomon because it is a picture of our love for God and His love for us.
I pray to be in love with him every day. May we all know his embrace.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Bob Challenge.

In the book, "If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat," John Ortberg tells about a new Christian whose name was Bob. He was studying the Bible with his pastor and asked him if this verse was true: "Ask whatever you will in my name and you will receive it." His pastor told him it wasn't a blank check and you had to understand it along with Bible principles, but in essence it was true.

They then made a $500 wager; Bob would pray every day about something and if nothing happened the pastor would pay him. (Ortberg calls this the "Bob Challenge") So Bob chose to pray for Kenya, Africa. He had no ties there, no family or business, he just thought of Kenya and chose it.

Awhile later he was at a dinner party. He met a woman who ran the largest orphanage in Kenya. He told her about the wager and she asked him to fly to Kenya and see the place. He did and was moved by their needs. When he returned home he phoned some pharmaceutical companies and asked them to donate the medical supplies they didn't sell to the orphanage. Some of them did and the orphanage received over a million dollars worth of medicine.

The orphanage gave a celebration and Bob flew over. The president of Kenya was there. He met Bob and took him on a tour of Nairobi. They saw a prison and Bob found out it held political prisoners. Bob told the president he should let them go free.

Later the State Department called Bob to thank him for his role in getting the prisoners released. The State Department had been trying to do that for years.

After all this, the president of Kenya called Bob and asked him to fly over and pray with him about choosing his next cabinet. Bob did.

When I read this story I was reminded of how Joyce Meyer always says, "Believe God is working when you pray for something." I realized how weak my faith is. I know God listens and answers, but I should be more bold. I should be more inventive and more varied on what I pray for. This story was a good lesson for me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jesus' Talks About Worry.

"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

Photo by Diego Delso,_Tierpark_Hellabrunn,_M%C3%BAnich,_Alemania,_2012-06-17,_DD_02.JPG

"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 

Photo by Jebulon

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs."But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Unhurried Life.

Pastor John Ortberg received this advice from a spiritual mentor, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. " He knew John well and perhaps knew this was a problem for him.

In his book, "The Life You've Always Wanted." Pastor Ortberg goes on to say, "Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry can destroy our souls."

I know that when I'm in a hurry I feel upset and perhaps angry at anything that makes me late or stops me from doing what I want to get done. Whenever I break something in the kitchen (quite often) my husband says it is because I rush. I should slow down and not be in such a hurry. He is right.

When my sister moved here she noticed that most of the time I drove over the speed limit. She didn't feel comfortable. I decided she was right and started to slow down. I do feel better about driving now. I don't feel so on edge as I drive. Most people in my city speed and get angry when you do the speed limit, but I've decided I don't care. I'm going to relax when I drive.

One thing I've noticed about children - they don't usually hurry. When you go for a walk they stop to look at a rock or flower while you stand there waiting. I notice Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry. If someone wanted his attention he would stop whatever he was doing to talk with them.

Our culture is a culture of hurry and time keeping; almost everything is done by the clock. Planning ahead and not having too much on our plate would help. I guess we should do our best to not be hurried and have our peace of mind disturbed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Holidays/Holy Days.
I didn't know the word holiday came from "holy days." I found that out in the book, The Life You've Always Wanted, by John Ortberg. He says most Holy Days are made to be fun. It's a holiday, a day off work, a day to enjoy your family and friends. It's a day to eat, sing and dance.

"Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10

Mr. Orberg counsels us to take one day a week to do things you love to do. Pamper yourself. Eat foods you love, listen to beautiful music, do anything that will refresh your spirit and bring a smile. Say thanks to God.

It is true that when people are joyful they are stronger than when they are sad. Just look at the posture of sad people. Usually their shoulders are slumped and their head is hanging and they are looking down. Joyful people usually look up with a smile on their face. Their happiness is infectious and they spread it to everyone they meet. 

When the prodigal son came home the father told the servants, "Kill the fattened calf. Let us eat and celebrate!" Later it says there was singing and dancing. Celebration is truly a part of God's character.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Personal Feelings on Suffering.

After my previous post on how to see suffering as a blessing I thought I would share my feelings on it. I think I understand intellectually the reasons for suffering but emotionally it is very difficult. I can understand the good that can come out of suffering, yet I feel upset and frightened by it.

It is all very easy to write about suffering but something else to go through it. Does it drive me to closer communion with God? Yes, definitely. Is that a blessing? Yes. But am I glad I went through the suffering? No. Am I grateful for the suffering? No. But I can say if I would not have given my life to God without this suffering than I am grateful for it.

Last night my granddaughter told me that when she gets her driving license she is going to drive all night long every night. She is so happy about this. I am sad. She has obsessive/compulsive disorder and can't sleep at night. Since she was little she has been up all night and sleeps in the day. We had hoped this would get better but it hasn't so far.

For years her mother has had to drive her around at night when she was frightened. That finally stopped a year ago, but now she is planning to do it herself when she has a license. What her future will be, I don't know. All our hearts have been broken from what she has been through. She is heartbroken herself. She has suffered immensely in many ways. Can I rejoice in this? No. Might this lead her to God? Yes, it might. She understands suffering, she is compassionate and she understands mental illness. This is a good thing but it came from years of terrible suffering. Right now she is angry at God because he didn't heal her illness.

So, have I really learned anything? Well, yes I think so. I'm not angry at God any more. I understand the reasons for suffering, which is very important to me. I always want to know the why of everything - especially this subject. And to know that suffering can make us better people is a comfort in a way.

God did not create us to suffer. He created us to be happy in Him. He created us to enjoy life and all its beauty. No wonder suffering feels like it doesn't belong in our life - we weren't made for it. But He can help us through it. He can carry us through it. And for that I am grateful.

I guess I write about suffering a lot. I do it because I struggle with it. I'll move on to other subjects next time. Love to all.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Broken Heart: A Curse or a Blessing?

I've been reading, "Life of the Beloved," by Henri J.M. Nouwen. He says everyone on earth has a broken heart. I believe this to be true. We all get a broken heart from people who are unkind to us, suffering through a war, going through an illness or many other negative things. No one's life is perfect although some suffer more than others. Each of our sufferings is unique to us. No one knows exactly what we feel and go through.

Nouwen says many people look upon their brokenness as a curse when it is actually a blessing. I had to read that chapter twice because although I have read the same thing in other books it is extremely hard for me to grasp. How on earth can pain, whether mental or physical be put under the heading of "blessing"?

So I re-read the chapter underlining words so I could make some sense of it and I came to this conclusion

1. If we look on suffering as a curse it deepens our feeling of worthlessness.

2. If we put suffering under the heading of blessings then it becomes a challenge to see it as a purification, pruning and a deeper communion with God.

3. It can lead to a total surrender to God along with deeper communion.

When I was reading this, I looked up on my wall and noticed the picture my sister gave me of Jesus on the cross. Jesus said about his suffering, "I tell you the truth, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned to joy." John 16:20 while the Old Testament says it is a curse, "Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." Deuteronomy 21:23 But of course the curse came to be a blessing.

I remembered reading once of Solzhenitsyn, who changed after he was thrown in prison. Prison became a blessing to him.

“Bless you, prison!” by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

“It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor.
In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…
That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: ‘Bless you, prison!’ I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: ‘Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!’”
–Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 615-17.

So, now I understand a bit more of how our suffering can help us get closer to God.