When Things Get Complicated

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Photo From Urban Wired

What do we do when things get complicated?

Well…here’s some of the things I find myself doing…

  • First of all I get a sick feeling in the pit of my tummy
  • Second I began rehearsing all the “what ifs”
  • Third my mind grasps the most horrendous “what ifs” and runs wild like a cheetah on the Serengeti.
  • Fourth, I become so mentally worn out I sink into depression
  • Fifth, I begin to form a “plan”
  • Sixth I try to implement the “plan”
  • Seventh, I become exhausted
  • Eighth, I pray.

Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse!  Of which I’m the master…so, here, hold my beer while I take a bow!

Why the hell can’t I remember to pray first?  Does it make me a horrible Christian?  On the contrary…it makes me human.

It’s just good ole “human nature” to desire to fix something when it breaks, and we shouldn’t berate ourselves for following our God-given, intrinsic instinct.  If we do, then that, my friend, is the real tragedy.  God doesn’t hold it against us…

Why?

Simply put, God knows how it feels to be human!

God, himself, put on flesh, and walked this earth for 33 years, and his friends called him, Jesus.  During these 33 years he was tempted in all ways, and personally experienced every weakness that can ever befall us.  Remember, He understands.  His arms are open, and he bids us come… “give me your cares for I care for you.”

Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that prayer is some magic wand that fixes everything…

No.

However, this is what prayer will do…

[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Through prayer we receive God’s understanding, His Mercy, and His Grace.  Armed with these we can face any circumstance that life throws our way.

So, when things get complicated remember….

  • He will not hold our weakness against us…because He has once felt the same way
  • His arms are always open wide
  • He bids us come
  • He wants us to share our problems with Him
  • He loves us more than life itself…for He gave his life for us
  • His Mercy and Grace never ends…it is new every morning

 

Oh what a Savior we have!

***

“…Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him…”  (Hebrews 4:14)

Daily Prompt:  Complication

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This High Priest of ours [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

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Thin the Clutter

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Image from thinkingfaith.org

The gospel of Matthew opens with the ancestral lineage of Jesus.  Most of us just skim over these verses because, lets face it, its pretty boring, but often, there are surprises hidden within the mundane, and they remain unseen unless we are willing the thin the clutter, and look beneath the surface.

You may be shocked to learn from whom Jesus descended!

I love a good surprise.  I love movies and books that end with a crazy twist that you just don’t see coming.  I love writers like Stephen King are are masters of this.

Good surprises can also do wonders for stale relationships.  Want to create sparks in your love life?…send flowers, write love notes, take them out for an unexpected date, pat their hiney, and grab a few stolen kisses… etc.

We all love these kinds of surprises.

As I read the Bible it seems to me that God also loves surprises.  The wonderful stories between Genesis and Revelation are mostly about how God uses the mundane to confound the wise.  He uses simple folk like you me to change this world for the better.  We become vessels of the Holy Spirit to carry out the plans of His radical love.

Yesterday, my morning devotion just happened to be called, Surprise Me!  It opened with a beautiful passage from the book of Ephesians that tells of Christ in our hearts, and how we become spiritually empowered through his love and presence.  I’ll attach this scripture at the end with hopes that it will bless you as much as it blessed me.

In this devotion, Cindy Hess Kasper, associate editor for Our Daily Journey, writes,

“Do you like surprises?  Would you dare say “Surprise me!” to God?  Through out the Bible we read that God delights in doing the unexpected.  Jesus’ time on earth was filled with amazing events…He turned water into wine, calmed the storms, healed the sick, and raised the dead.  What kind of God do we serve?  One who is not confined by our finite imagination.  He wants to bless us…He delights in His children who trust Him and are willing to say, “Surprise me, Lord!”  

God, open my eyes…Surprise me today!

***

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots do down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, and how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.  Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now glory be to God!  By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we world ever dare to ask or hope.  May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages.  Amen.               Ephesians 3:14-21

***

Daily Prompt:  Thin 

 

 

 

Give Yourself Away

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So often our thoughts are consumed with getting what we want or need, and this is not necessarily a bad thing…after all, it is self-preservation that has kept our species alive and kicking to this very day.

Self preservation is a God-given intrinsic, instinct, but, let’s face it friends, a lot has changed since the days of painting our stories upon cavern walls.

Most of us not only have our needs…shelter, food, water, and clothes…met, but we are also richly garnished with our fleshly wants and desires.  Where as, some may think this a bad thing, I do not hold to that idea.

There is nothing wrong with getting things we want…after all, it is our Creator who spoke this world, and all of its beautiful things into existence.  Jesus tells us,

“I came that [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows.”

Jesus wants us to enjoy the life he died to give us.  His death and resurrection is so much more than a ticket to Heaven.  It is also the assurance that He wants us to enjoy and make the most of the time we have on Earth.  He is actually happy to see us happy.  Such a simple concept, but one that is largely overlooked by mainstream Christianity.

Jesus also gave himself away to be an example for us.  There are at least 87 times in the Bible where Jesus says, “Follow me…”  I believe that these two words, “Follow me,”  sum up the true meaning of Christianity.

True Christianity is not about following a set of rules, it’s not about your interpretation of scripture, but rather it’s simply following in Jesus’s footsteps.

How did Jesus treat the poor?

How did Jesus treat the hungry?

How did Jesus treat the sick?

How did Jesus treat sinners?

How did Jesus treat the outcast?

How did Jesus treat the stranger?

How did Jesus treat the religious?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves as we seek to follow Jesus.

Jesus didn’t flaunt himself, he gave himself, and that is what he want us to do, as well.

Genuine Christians follow Jesus, and give of themselves to others.

***

“We have to learn to give ourselves away and the blessings of God will chase us down and overtake us.  You see, He wants to help you be enthusiastic about loving other people every single day of your life as you do kind and caring things for them.”   Joyce Meyer

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose itbut whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it. —Jesus

***

Lord, help me to see others through your eyes, and to be you to all I see.  In Jesus name, amen.

 

Daily Prompt:  Flaunt

 

Daily Meditation: Mark 2:16-17

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One day, a well-known, and well-hated, tax collector invited Jesus and his friends to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors, and many other notorious sinners.  

When some of the teachers of religious law, who were Pharisees, saw Jesus eating and socializing with people like that…they asked, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

Jesus heard the question, and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.  I have come to call sinners, not those who “think” they are already good enough.”

***

We are called to pull down the walls, and open wide the gates.

Christ says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL unto me.”

All means All, there is no fine print.

How magnetic is your faith?

Do you compel, or do you repel?

***

Father, may my actions and words draw others to your unconditional love.

***

Daily Prompt:  Magnetic

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Sometimes Resurrection Requires Letting Go (Amanda Miller Garber)

3254a0cb305b209fbf29469efcfce9c0Mother’s Day is difficult for me.  Since it always falls on Sunday, I usually play hooky, so I wont have to put on the façade of “happy mom.”  However, this Sunday was different.  As fate would have it…or maybe God…this Sunday I was slated to help with communion service.  So for that reason, I sucked it up, and went to church.  “Let the acting begin,” I thought, as I walked through the door.

Now, you may wonder, why Mother’s Day is so difficult.  Several reasons.  One, my mom is dead, and yes I miss her, but, I also do tremendous guilt for not spending more time with her while she was alive.  Two, I miss my own children, who live far away, and I also do tremendous guilt for decisions I made in the past…decisions that negatively impacted their lives.   Some of those decisions needed to be made, but, none-the-less, I do guilt…and I do it well.  I usually hear from them…a text or a call, but I can’t help but wonder how Mother’s Day would be if I’d only chosen a different path.  It torments me.

On Mother’s Day I just want to crawl into a hole, but this year the hole sat empty, as I sat in church.  Listening to the pastor’s sermon, something she said jumped out at me, and caught my attention.  She said, “Sometimes, resurrection requires letting go.”  She asked the question, and I paraphrase, “What is keeping you from experiencing true resurrection in your life?  What are you holding on to, that needs to be let go?”

***

Today, intellectually, I realize I need to let go of the past, but I’m discovering it’s not easily done.  I guess, a good first step would be forgiveness.  Somehow, some way I need to figure out how to forgive myself.  My prayer is for God to show me the way.  I’m sure it’s not something that’s said and done, but rather, something that must be practiced on a daily basis.  I pray for God’s strength.

Just like a baby learning to walk, we have to let go, to move forward.  More often than not, what we desperately cling to is toxic.  If we fail to let it go, we begin a slow death that eats away our individuality, until we no longer recognize ourselves.

We all teeter on the precipice of transformation, but to get there we must let go.

***

“Sometimes, resurrection requires letting go.”   __Amanda Miller Garber

 

The God Who Sees Me…

“You are the God who sees me…” __ Hagar

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I’ve always felt a kinship with Hagar.  Hagar was the maidservant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

This is her story:

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was barren.  None-the-less, God had promised  that through their children would come the nation of Israel.  Abraham and Sarah had tried to have children for many years, but now they were old, and Sarah finally gives up hope.  One day, she tells her husband…  “The Lord has kept me from having children.  Go sleep with my maidservant (Hagar); perhaps I can build a family through her.”

[SCRRRREEEEEECH…]

[Pardon the interruption…it’s just my wheels coming to a halt!  Okay, if I had been the writer of this Genesis’ story, I would have written it, more to this effect,

“…go sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her,” said, no woman ever! 

Call it a hunch, but, I have a sneaky suspicion this idea was more Abraham’s than Sarah’s.]

[…now…back to the story]

So, Abraham, “obeyed” his wife, and slept with Hagar, and Hagar, became pregnant.  Of course, tension mounts between the two women, until one day, all hell breaks loose within the camp.  Sarah, in a jealous rage, mistreats Hagar.  Scripture gives no detail as to how, but it was bad enough for Hagar to run away, and hide, from her mistress, in the dessert.  Scared and alone, Hagar finally finds a spring of water and pauses  to drink.   God sees her at the spring, and begins a conversation with her.  It goes something like this: 

God:  Hagar, what has happened and where are you going?”

Hagar:  “I’m running away…”

God: “Go back… face the problem, and I will be with you.”

Hagar: “You are the God who sees me…”

And so, Hagar returns.  The problem doesn’t go away, but God is true to his word, and helps her every step of the way.  Eventually, she is blessed with a son, she names Ishmael, and through Ismael’s descendants the Arab nation is born. 

 

In my life, I have endured many “Hagar moments,” and I bet you have too.

How often I’ve felt…

  • …alone
  • …misunderstood
  • …unloved
  • …without hope
  • …a victim of circumstances, beyond my control
  • …an outcast
  • …ready to give up

 

When I read God’s words to Hagar, I read them as if they were written just for me.  He tells me, “Go back, my child, and I will be with you.  Don’t give up, I have a good plan for you.”

I’m so thankful, He is the God who sees me.

***

Daily Prompt: Measure

Everything we need is give through His good measure.

 

 

Accepting Bridges, Instead of Walls

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God has called us to build bridges and not walls.  The whole story of Christ’s life, testifies to this.  During his ministry, Jesus broke down many walls of separation.

For example:

  • Jesus was a Judean Refugee living in Egypt.  (What if Egypt had built a wall?)
  • Jesus had many women disciples. (Gender Wall)
  • Jesus praised the Samaritans, whom the Jews considered dogs. (Race Wall)
  • Jesus spent his time with sinners, instead of the religious. (Religion Wall)
  • Jesus admonishes the poor, instead of the rich. (Status Wall)
  • Jesus proclaimed Grace instead of Law. (Rule/Regulation Wall)

Jesus leveled the playing field, where all are equal, and He calls us to do the same.

For He is our peace.  He has made us both one body, and has broken down the hostile, dividing wall between us.  Ephesians 2:14

 

Daily Prompt: Acceptance

 

My Soul To Take

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Painting by Florence Kroger

 

Oh, that God would mold this clay,

nothing but dust, dirt and decay!

And yet, in me, He saw some worth;

He sent his Son, from Heaven to Earth.

To lay down his life, upon the cross,

to thirst, and bleed, and suffer loss.

And so for me, His Glory awaits;

one day I’ll walk, through pearly gates.

So nothing to fear, because I am free;

His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

The shadow of death, there is no escape,

But God’s in the valley, my soul, to take.

***

As a tiny girl, often, my mom and I, prayed the prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”  I was always comforted by this bedtime ritual.  As an adult, when I think on the memory, I find I am blessed just as much now, as I was then; perhaps even more.  Thus was the inspiration for this poem.

“Mama, thank you for the foundations of strength you’ve given me.  I am a better woman because of you.”

now i lay me down

(Daily prompt: Luck)

Luck has nothing to do with my spiritual life.  It is orchestrated by the hand of God.

 

God’s Abstract Love

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There are some things we will never understand, and God’s love is one of them.  Maybe there are times, we think, we comprehend its depth, only to have the knowledge drift away, like a cloud in the sky.

If it were possible to put God’s love to canvas, you can be sure, it would be abstract art.  I truly enjoy abstract paintings, because every time I view it, I learn something new; and for me, that is exciting!

Such is God’s love, dear friends.  It is multifaceted with many doors, but, behind each door stands Jesus.  He tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in.”

Jesus knocks at our door, but sometimes it is required of us to knock. In the book of  Matthew, Jesus speaks, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Sometimes we hear, see and feel his love, but often we do not.  When we walk the latter, we walk in God’s abstract love; but don’t despair; for it’s during these times, our faith is strengthened, and our eyes are opened to something new.

Jesus is whispering, “Seek, and you shall find.”

***

Daily Prompt: Abstract

 

The Lord is my Shepherd

When, blessings like a river, swarm.

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“The Lord is my shepherd.”  And thus begins Psalm 23.

King David is the author of Psalm 23; however, as much as we Christians would like to believe, David was not the first to pen the idea of God as shepherd.

History tells us, this metaphor, of comparing god to shepherd, was common place within the Eastern world.  For example:

  • There was a song written about Marduk, patron deity of the city of Babylon, during the early 18th Century BC, describing his care for the weak like a “benevolent shepherd.”  
  • Another song written of Shamash, Mesopotamian sun-god, proclaims, “You shepherd all living creatures, together, you are the herdsman, above and below.”
  • Hammurabi (c.1750 BC) claimed kingship by providing “the people with pastures and watering places, having settled them in peaceful abodes.”
  • A phrase, which closely parallels Psalm 23, was found inscribed upon ancient Samaritan text and it reads,  “A man’s personal god is a shepherd who finds pasturage for him.  Let him lead him like sheep to the grass they can eat.”

Some Christians, learning of this, may feel it weakens David’s writing, but I feel quite the opposite.  I’m sure David, a learned man, was aware of such comparisons; therefore, when he chose to liken his God to that of a shepherd, he, in essence, was elevating his God, Yahweh, above all other gods.

David spent many of his younger years, tending his father’s sheep.  The book of II Samuel, speaks of two incidents where David had to kill a lion and a bear in order to protect the fold.  David understood the lambs were vulnerable, and without his protection, they would most likely die.  Knowing this fact, when he wrote Psalm 23, he visions himself to a lamb, that is dependent upon the shepherd, and for David, this shepherd could only be Yahweh.  David humbled himself, and placed his entire well-being, within the hands of God.

I love how David makes Psalm 23 personal.  He could have written, “The Lord is a shepherd” and that would have been true, but instead he writes “The Lord is ‘my’ Shepherd.”  By that simple two letter word, David sheds light upon his close relationship to God.

I believe when we read Psalm 23, God desires of us, to make it personal.  He wants each of us to slip our identity within this passage, and when we do, this ancient scripture becomes alive.  We like, David, can proclaim a personal relationship with God, and when we are able to do that, God Himself walks with us.

Oh, what peace and joy this brings!

My Daily Prayer:

Lord, you are my Shepherd.  You care about everything in my life, even unto the minutest detail.  Help me today to ponder this thought.

When I’m tired, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will feel rest.  When I’m afraid, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your protection.  When I am lonely, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your presence.  When I am guilty, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your forgiveness.  When I’m down upon myself, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know I’m enough.  When I feel unloved, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your love.  And in that time, when I face death, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and I will know comfort and peace.

Lord, thank you for this day, you have made for me.  Help me to live it, with my hand in yours.  Help me, to be a blessing, to those you bring to my path.

In the name of Jesus, my savior, I make these requests.  Amen

***

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  — Jesus

When blessings, like a river, swarm

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(Information about comparisons of gods to shepherd was taken from the NIV Study Bible)