Monthly Archives: April 2014

Growth like Spring

Mom's Purple Pansy             I feel pretty confident in stating that spring is finally here.  Granted, I live in Colorado, so we might be in for another snow fall – or not.  If we do get more snow, it won’t stick around long.
It is SO refreshing to walk out the door and smell fresh air full of the scent of newly-growing things.  While I love winter, I have been waiting for some time now for green grass and the beauty of sun illuminating thin petals of tulips and pansies and creeping flox.  There is something about this time of year that makes a girl SO glad she’s alive.
I know of people who love a certain season so much that they wish they could only live in the one.  But each season needs the others to make it happen.
I mean, without winter, without the time for the earth to rest, to be gently replenished through snowfall and cooler temperatures and plant-leftovers, spring wouldn’t happen.  We might not be able to see all of the good that is going on beneath the brown, forgotten grass or in the barren garden but good, vital stuff is happening.  And then, when the time is right (and usually so much later than when I’m ready for it) spring quietly spreads over the land so quietly that often I don’t notice it until quite a lot has happened and it feels like spring just showed up over night.Tulips
The thing is, this happens in us too.  We can pray and pray and pray for God to do something specific in us, or work soooo hard to conquer something, or get frustrated that nothing is happening.  But growth is happening – it might just be a winter season, where you need to rest and replenish before the purples, reds, yellows, blues, and greens of spring burst forth from you.  God likes to work in secret on us for long bouts of time before showing off what He’s done.
So don’t give up hope, if you’re hoping for growth in yourself.  If you’ve been praying for God to help you to forgive someone, or to be able to conquer some specific sin, keep praying, keep doing whatever it is He has asked you to do.  If you’re feeling “stagnant”, as occasionally I do, don’t give up.  Think of that time as the very end of winter.  You’re practically itching to grow because you sense it is time.*     But don’t worry, He IS doing a good work in you, and He WILL complete it.  In His time, in His way, probably when you aren’t even looking for it.

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Creeping Flox

*In my experience, that itching can mean one of two things.  The first – like I said, God is ready for your personal growth to burst forth for all to see.  Or second – God is causing in you a stirring for growth because it is time you and He work on that – which probably means you’re going to need to trust Him through the coming winter.   So trust, and do as He prompts, because He is doing an amazing work!

 

 

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Easter freedom

It is Easter in a few days.  I love Easter.  Perhaps that is because of all the fond memories I associate with this time of year: the hats and white gloves and orchid corsages and new dresses when I was a little girl, the egg hunts, the bunny-baskets full of candy, the family gatherings and good food.

coconut-macaroons      As I’ve gotten older a few of those traditions have fallen to the wayside – like the hats and white gloves and orchid corsages.  (I should’ve kept the hat one, but I don’t have time to find the perfect Easter hat these days).
But, I HAVE  picked up a few other traditions along the way – like watching the movie Chocolat and making coconut macaroons.  I love me some chocolate and coconut…and somehow those flavors work best together around this time of year.  chocolatAs for Chocolat, I love the reminder of grace and mercy that the movie subtly speaks of.  For that is what this holiday is all about, is it not?  Through Christ’s sacrifice, God extends us grace and mercy.

I think, often though, we get focused on simply Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is a big deal.  Without His death and resurrection, we would still be in an insecure state as to our relationship with God the Father.  Because of sin, God could not interact with us humans in the way He originally had intended and desired.  But, because of Jesus’ death, or more accurately, because of Jesus life and resurrection, God could.

13.06.03 - Celtic Cross               And that’s where we stop.  We forget to apply Easter to our lives.  Because of Easter we are covered by Jesus’ blood. Because of Easter, our sins no longer interfere with our relationship with God.  Because of Easter, God’s grace and mercy extend over, around, through, and under us.  We are accepted.  He loves us (not that He didn’t before).  Because of Easter, you don’t have to be perfect, or even mostly good.  Jesus’ blood covers all the gunk in your life, so you don’t have to sit there, covered in it,  and focus on it. You no longer have any need to be reminded of the gunk and sin, you can get up and walk away from it.  God will clean that up; God will clean YOU up.  Sure, He’ll ask for your help, but He’ll do it.  You don’t (you CAN’T) do it on your own.  And THAT is what Easter is about: Jesus taking on the responsibility of cleaning up your mess.  (Now…if only He would clean up my chocolate-and-coconut-covered kitchen….)

You are free, my friend.  Because of Easter, you are free indeed.  Now, go and live as if that were true.  And treat others as if that were true as well.  Because it is.  But most Christians forget that.  We have to live our life a certain way, maintain a Christian Culture standard, and if you don’t…well then…  But that’s NOT why Jesus died.  He died so that all might come and hang out with Him – no matter their past sins.  I think so often we forget that when Jesus was on Earth, He hung out with the low-lifes, those no one else wanted to associate with because they were the misfits, the thieves, the prostitutes, the betrayers, the less-than-smart, the unclean, the social definitely not accepted.  And He invited them to be His friends, to be part of His earthly story.  Which means there is hope for each and every one of us.  That He’s inviting you to come and sit at His table.
Now, don’t get me wrong.  There will be a price to pay.  While Christian Culture turns its back on those who aren’t clean enough, or say the wrong things, or do the wrong things, Secular Culture does the same to Christians.  But, if you are willing to deal with that, if you are willing to accept what Jesus did for you – and live in that freedom (and I’m not talking about the rule book that many in Christian Culture say you must live by), than this day – Easter, is truly a life-changing day worth celebrating!

He is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!
(Now, go LIVE that way!) 

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More than you can handle

I have heard more than once recently that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

For the record, yeah, that’s not true.  It’s definitely not scriptural.  In fact, I bet if you could talk to Job, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter, that they would all say at one point or another that God gave them more than they could handle.  Even Jesus, that night in Gethsemane, asked God if he could get out of the next couple coming days, and he sweat drops of blood (this happens when a person is under a great deal of stress).

The closest scripture I could find to this saying is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states in the ESV, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

But temptation is different than life struggles.  Your dad having cancer is a life struggle, not a temptation.  Your friends betraying you is a life struggle, not a temptation.  I mean, sure, within the life struggle you will find the temptation to reject God, or reject parts of Him you know to be true.  And that was Satan’s goal in taking everything away from him – to get him to curse God.  But life struggles happen, and aren’t temptations in and of themselves.

But I bet, as the messengers came running to Job about his children dying, and his cattle, sheep and other sources of his wealth, Job would have said that this was too much, that God had given him more than he could handle.  But mostly he just asked “why”.

Talk to the people in Africa, who are now orphans because both of their parents died of AIDS and are now starving.  Or to any of the refugees anywhere on the planet.  I bet they would all say “it’s too much”.

And it is.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Life is hard, and often it is more than a person can handle on their own.   I don’t care if your life is cushy or if your life is super-hard, it’s more than you can handle.  Something will come up that will send you over the edge.  Which is why God calls us to community and to be in constant communion with Him.  Because life IS more than we can handle on our own.  But with Christ and with the community He has given us, we never have to do it on our own.

Even Job didn’t have to go through his trials alone.  I mean, sure, his friends could have been a bit more supportive and trusting, but at least they sat down with him, and sat through the pain with him.  Now, I’m sure at times he would have preferred they leave, their advice was that poisonous, but even their horrible advice seems to have pushed Job that much more to not curse God.

So yeah, the saying “God doesn’t give you more than you handle” is pretty much a lie.  He allows stuff all the time to happen that is more than we can handle.  But through that stuff, God is there and if you are dependent on Him, you will get through.  And one of the ways He reaches out to you is through the community you and He have gathered around you.  Life is not meant to be lived alone.  You can’t do it on your own (even people who think they can find ways to get around the pain – whether they watch too much TV, are super-focused on their body, or drink, or whatever it is they can find to escape).

God WILL give you more than you can handle.  On your own you will shut down emotionally.  You will curse Him.  You will no longer see a reason to live, or how you possibly could live through this.  You might mentally snap.

But God will never give you more than you and He and your community can handle.  There isn’t one example in scripture of God doing that.  He’s not an evil, malicious God.  He is just, and righteous, and loving.  He takes care of His kids.  It might be hard, but if you are at His side, He’ll guide you through.

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Faith Like Why

If someone were to ask you why you believe what you believe, what would you say?  Would you take them down the Roman Road?  What if they knew nothing about the Bible?  Than the Roman Road is just a bunch of cobbled-together random sentences from one thick book.  Can you do the same thing with the Harry Potter Series?  Does he point to God?  Or would you point to a few science articles that indicate an intelligent creation?  Or talk of tales from your personal life experiences?  Seriously.  Why do you believe what you believe?

And how strongly do you believe it?  Would you die for your beliefs?  Are you willing to enter into discussion with others about why they believe what they believe (and actually HEAR them)?  What would happen to your faith if somehow it was brought into question?  If you were shown discrepancies within the Bible? Does that make it any less true?  Or if you were told that most of the stories were actually just that – stories, good stories, to teach us lessons.  But nothing more.  Maybe they were even “borrowed” from other surrounding religions during the time the Bible was being written.  What then?   And what do you do when someone shows you a picture of an adorable little girl dying of starvation in Africa, or a woman caught in the sex trade?  How do you tell them that God is a loving God who “knows the plans [He] has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you”?  Or what about the people who tell you that “as long as you believe something  – that’s all that matters”?  Or the people who call you arrogant because you believe your scriptures, which say that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven?  What about the little children who never have a chance to believe in Jesus?

How strong is your faith then?

Can your faith stand up against messy life, heartache, deep pain and everything life will throw your way?

Why do you believe what you believe? 

This is a crucial question.  YOU HAVE TO KNOW.  If you are living your life right, someday someone will ask you.  And you better be ready with an answer.  Or you will run across people who have been hurt by the Christian religion, and you will need to know how to answer their probably-angry questions with a great deal of grace and love.

And, as a little caveat, if the foundation of your faith, if your answers to hard questions are sort of wishy-washy (“well, I think…  “or “somewhere in the Bible it says….”), or come from Sunday morning sermons, (“Well, Pastor Peter says…”), or, worse, come from “biblical” movies (like The Passion, or Veggie Tales, or so many more) your answers aren’t going to hold up.  That being said, if your answers are ONLY from scripture and the person asking you questions isn’t from the Christian faith, or a religion that values a main instructional book like the Bible, you scripture references aren’t going to mean much…yet.  I mean, as Isaiah 55:11 says, anytime you speak scripture (with the right intent), God will use it. So, by using scripture you’re potentially planting seeds…but you’re not necessarily going to be helpfully answering the questions they have right at that moment.

So then, how do you defend or share your faith?  A whole lot of listening for wisdom from the Holy Spirit.  A whole lot of living a life that points toward Christ.  A whole lot of owning your weaknesses.  And a huge amount of confidence in how Christ sees you.  Knowing what the Bible says, knowing what science says, and being willing to share your life story.  And patience, a whole lotta patience and humility.  And a huge helpin’ heap of depending on Christ.

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