Checklists

>> Saturday, January 30, 2016

The following blog was written by my daughter, Lorri. 

We live in an indulgent, fast food nation, in which everything must be delivered fast, and everything must be easy. We hate waiting in line. We hate sitting at red lights. We hate waiting our turn. We hate it when the person at the checkout in front of us wants a price check or doesn’t know how to use the debit card machine. We hate it when there is not an immediate response to our questions. We hate it when we have to wait for the cable guy, the plumber, the electrician, the deliveryman, or the mailman. We live in an egocentric, self-centered nation where our convenience must be a priority.

The same seems to be true for modern-day Bible studies and devotionals. People want quick and easy, with little effort required. We can check “devotional time” off of our list, and feel really good about ourselves as Christians. After all, we gave God twenty minutes of our day. What more does He want?

Early in December, mom and I purchased a study book titled, The 40 Day Soul Fast: Your Journey to Authentic Living. It is now January, and we have barely moved past the first lesson. This study asks us to dig deep within ourselves, bringing self-awareness to an entirely new level. We would rather spend weeks contemplating the deep, soul-searching questions in the first lesson, than mark “Day One” off our lists and go to the next lesson without being honest with God and ourselves about the truths He is revealing.

I believe THIS is what He wants. He wants us to participate in soul-searching, interpersonal thought that makes us think about where we’ve been, and how we will move forward. He wants us to be uncomfortable. He wants us to question our motives. He wants us to be aware of things we do every day that keep us from truly seeking His will in our lives. He wants us to not only TALK about change, but to actually do it.

Many popular devotionals barely scratch the surface of true communion with God. We carry around little books full of anecdotes and short stories, but we don’t dig deeply within ourselves, asking God to reveal our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our hidden desires, our indulgences, our addictions, and our motives. In many ways, people don’t want to think about those things, because living in denial is easier. Change can be complicated, and we don’t like complicated.
 
Since starting the Soul Fast study, I have come to understand that a daily devotional isn’t a twenty-minute activity each day. I used to feel so good about myself when I checked “devotional time” off my list, but God isn’t about checklists. Checklists are easy. Checklists are uncomplicated. Checklists make us feel good about ourselves because we are so efficient.

Do you want “Time with God” to be an activity on a list next to grocery shopping and laundry?


"I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel." Psalm 119:23 (MSG)

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Forgiving God

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My husband, John, had more than one kind of cancer…and had been given months to live. I asked the doctor what it would be like at the end. I was told if the kidney cancer took him, it would be quick and painless. If the lung cancer was what ended his life, it would not be pretty. He would struggle to breathe.

So we prayed it would be kidney cancer that caused his death. That didn’t happen.

As I sat by John, loving on him and listening to the awful sound of his breathing, I had a few choice words for God. I may have yelled. “John is such a good man and a wonderful Christian. Why are you letting this go on? You could heal him or you could just take him home. Please end his suffering.”

But that didn’t happen.

This morning I listened to a podcast where the sermon focused on persecution of Christians. But Chuck Swindoll went back to the beginning of persecutions…Jesus. He described the trial, flogging, etc. and then talked about the cross. Nails were driven between the bones in the wrist to hold His upper body upright. Bending His legs, more nails were pounded through His feet with the balls of His feet resting on a small board placed there for Him to be able to push His body up so He didn’t have to struggle to breathe. Are you getting the same picture I had this morning?

God allowed His own Son to struggle to breathe…without rescuing Him.

The rest of the podcast went in one ear and out the other as I reflected on my epiphany. God allowed Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for a reason. Had we been standing there, we would not have understood, just like I didn’t understand why John had to suffer. But God does not make mistakes. There is a reason for everything He allows

On the treadmill, my feet still moving forward, I forgave God.

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do….” Hebrews 4:15 (NLT)



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Christmas Will Be Different This Year

>> Thursday, December 10, 2015

The absence of my beloved husband, John, has forever changed Christmas for me. Even though the Christmas season was rather low-key for us, we did enjoy it in various ways. Some years we drove to Boise to spend it with grandchildren. Sometimes we attended a festive Christmas concert. Shopping was never a highlight. Several years ago we determined we would plan a special trip for the two of us as our Christmas present to each other, as neither of us enjoyed shopping.

He was the one who hauled the containers of decorations from the garage. I had to this year. Each year he hung the wreath. I had to this year. I decided to simplify. So I gave away my Christmas village. My decorations are simple, highlighting manger scenes.

That works for me.

The second reason Christmas is different this year is that I just returned from a trip to the Holy Land…the place the Christmas carols sing about. When “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” comes on the radio, I am immediately transported to that city where I walked the streets and purchased a hand carved manger scene made out of olive wood. When the song talks of shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, I remember sitting on a rock in the shepherd’s field. “Away in a Manger” has new meaning after seeing the kind of stable and manger it is talking about.

The timing of that trip was a great Christmas present to me. Tears began streaming down my face as I typed those words. I had a sudden realization. Due to some life insurance money, John gave me one last trip.  He went with me in my heart and in my carryon. I took the party favor from his graduation party to the Sea of Galilee and spent 30 minutes there on the shore with him, then placed him in some rocks beneath a tree and left him there.

The Sea of Galilee will never be the same for me.




“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” Matthew 5:4 (MSG)



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Fear or Fearless Faith

>> Sunday, November 22, 2015

As a child I was taught to fear everything.  If you rode in a car, you might be in a wreck. If you played with the neighbor children, you would go to hell because they were evil. If it stormed, lightening could strike you…so sit in the middle of the bed and don’t touch anything like scissors. And for sure God was out to get you. Before I did anything, I gave it the fear test. Fear won every time.

I lived like that the first 30 years of my life. 

I married, had three children, and then my husband left. I was consumed with fear. Sleep was elusive and my health was deteriorating.  I read my Bible for the first time. It said God was love. That’s not what the scriptures I had been taught said. What did I have to lose? And so I turned to the one major object of my fear…God. Would He really get me?


He didn’t.  He calmed me and helped me sleep at night.

So over the years I worked on overcoming many fears. Heights. Flying. Financial insecurity. Health issues: especially cancer. What people thought of me. I grew confident enough to re-marry. But little did I know that my years of working on my fears were just training for what was to come.

Three years ago my husband, John, was diagnosed with cancer.

During our cancer journey, we experienced no fear. God was right there each step of the way. This past year was the most difficult, as John’s condition worsened. In the midst of our walk through the valley of the shadow of death, our pastor began a yearlong study on “Fearless Faith”. Sunday after Sunday, John and I were affirmed in our faith.

We had peace until he breathed his last.

Within months of his death, I was given the opportunity to go to Israel…a life long dream of mine. Immediately the warnings began from well-meaning people. “You can’t go there. Something might happen to you. It’s dangerous.”

I went…determining ahead of time I would not allow fear to creep in. It was an amazing trip.

As I look back over the last few years, I am so grateful for that fearless faith. So much could have been destroyed with fear in control.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)



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