When It’s the Wrong Season!

It’s April 17th and it looks like blizzard out my window. Yesterday was the first snow day of the year for the kids…in April. We spent the weekend huddled inside while snow, rain and freezing rain pelted our house for two full days. Friday and Monday were just starter and finisher days. Four days of foul weather and now today, snowing like it’s January.

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April 17, 2018!!!

I’m not sure about you, but that’s how life feels lately. Like a never-ending winter season. Now I love winter, maybe not as much as I used to I’ll admit, but I still enjoy the winter season. January is my birth month so I’m a snow baby. But sometimes when you are expecting spring and winter shows up again, even the most avid lovers can feel a little discouraged. I’m not only talking about weather here.

How many times have we dreamed about something, only to get something else completely different?

How many times have we assumed this or that, only to find out that our assumptions were wrong?

How many times have we gotten the wrong season, when we expected, no desired, a totally different one?

My first instinct is to resist and complain about the unfairness of it all. I don’t want to make lemonade out of the lemons life hands me. Really I don’t.At.All.

I think I deserve a good pity party and indulge myself in it.

This really accomplishes nothing beneficial. For me or those around me.  All it really does is make me more narcissistic, bitter, and angry to name just a few. I hide more.

Maybe I need to find a different response. I’m not saying be a Polyanna. I think there is something to being authentic about the troubles we face in our lives. We don’t need to be fake or lie to ourselves and those around us. Perhaps instead, we can acknowledge those troubles but not let them define us. Not let them master us or our days. I’ve let that happen too much. You?

I’m learning that if I let my focus stay on Jesus, that this is a good defence against that type of reaction. I used to think Jesus deserted me in the struggles and hardness of life. I didn’t want to admit it but deep down that is what I believed. He’s been telling me otherwise over the last year. That actually in the suffering, he steps closer to us. He may allow the difficulties, the sorrow but he doesn’t abandon us. He walks us down those lonely, rough roads. But if we let the hardness of the situation blind us by keeping us so inward-focused, we lose sight of him and we think we are alone.

But we are not alone. Ever.  Sometimes we just need to lift our heads, open our eyes and take a look around. He’s there beside us, holding us if need be. He breathes hope into us and instead of hiding, we can take a step towards living.  This is beneficial for us and for those around us.

It sounds easy but it’s not. I know. But maybe, just perhaps, today, we can take one step and just look up, away from the snow, the circumstances, the mess we may be in and look for Him.  He’s there waiting for us to see Him.  To breath life back into us, to give us hope.

If your road is a good one right now, still look up and see His goodness. Wherever you are today, look up and out. Sometimes a different perspective makes all the difference.

When Easter Becomes an Afterthought

Has Easter crept up on you this year? Maybe it’s the fact that after several years of having Easter in April, it’s surprising us in March this year. It could be that, at least here in Canada, it’s still feeling pretty wintery for spring. The Easter bunny is still hibernating here.

Whatever the reason, Easter is almost upon us and I’m just now beginning to think about it. If I’m not careful, I’ll get wrapped up in the events of the week and Good Friday will be here and my heart won’t be ready. The holiday weekend will pass by and Easter will be only an afterthought. A blip on the calendar. This is not how I want it to go but quite often, it is.

I’ll try to squeeze some Easter things into an already crowded calendar. More of a check list that “I Did Easter 2018.” Maybe along with some photos to post. It still leaves me feeling empty.

Every year I’m left feeling this way and it’s occurred to me more than once that I don’t think that’s how it should be.

Are we just too busy? I think that’s part of it. Do we take the time to contemplate the week leading up to the cross? No I don’t. I’m left trying to get through the week, only to find myself sitting in church on Good Friday, trying to get my mind to stop.

I could say I am too busy but is that the truth?  I heard author and pastor, Carey Nieuwhof say something to the effect, that we say we are too busy but what we are really saying is we didn’t make the time.   I didn’t make the time to step back 2000 years ago and walk that journey of the disciples, the many Marys, including Jesus’ mother and witness the horrific crucifixion.

I didn’t make the time for Jesus, prioritizing so many other things ahead of Him. The consequences of that choice is I’m left with Easter as an afterthought.

Obviously I need to change my priorities. How about you?

 

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I need to make time for Jesus first, not cleaning the house, writing or baking. I need to be more a Mary this week than a Martha. I need to chose the good thing, the better thing. I need to sit at His feet. Travel back 2000 years and read the scriptures with new eyes. Instead of whispering to myself that I know all that already. Maybe starting today, I need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to do a new work in my heart. To show me new truths and insights into the Easter story. To remember it’s not just a story but a grace fulfilled, a love that stood in for all of us. A priceless gift that none of us ever deserved it but we are loved. That.Much.

What about you?

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Rev 3:20 NIV

Maybe this Easter, He’s standing at the door knocking. He already has our hearts, but now He’s asking for our time. Our attention. For every part of our being.

It’s not too late for Easter to be anything but an afterthought.

A little tale about when things get hard…

Many of you have read the book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie… to your kids or grandchildren or nieces and nephews.  It’s one of my personal favourites.

The title keeps rolling around in my head as I think about the last few weeks. In the spirit of that style, I came up with my own loose version; If You Start to Pray Then You Will Get Hammered. (You can insert any spiritual discipline in place of prayer.)

If you start to pray, you will get hammered.

Because if you start to pray (read your bible, memorize scripture) the enemy is not going to like it. In fact he’s going to zero in on your efforts.

You’ll start out excited and enthusiastic and then you’ll realize the enormity of the task you’ve taken on. He’ll make sure you see only that side of it and make sure you are so overwhelmed that you forget that I AM is on your side.

You’ll pray hard and then someone will get sick. Or two or three. The whole family is down for the count.

You’ll start again the next day, only to get distracted with all the chores that are now on your plate because everyone else is sick.

After much pep talking and earnestly praying again, things, not people, in your house will break down. Multiple times.

You’ll forget about your quiet time because now you are in crisis mode. I don’t have time to think about stopping to pray, you tell yourself.

But as the days turn to weeks, you whisper prayers as you run, then stop because what’s the point? Everything’s tanked since you started to pray! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, the enemy will whisper in your ear. You’re doing it wrong. Your prayers are worthless. Give up.

You’ll listen for a while to that slippery snake. And then you’ll realize that even though it feels like the house is crashing down around you and all the balls you’ve been juggling have been dropped and smacked you on the head, in fact you are still standing. And so is your house.

Truth pushes it’s way to the front of your chaotic thoughts. You must be doing something right because it got hard. The enemy didn’t like it so he went after you. Stay the course. You are not alone, I AM with you, says the voice of Truth.

As you look around, you realize that this is indeed true. You see His handprints throughout the chaos, the brokenness and the crazy. They can’t be wiped away. Instead a glimmer of hope cracks through the darkness.

If you start to pray, then you will get hammered. But I AM is with you and He has placed you in the winner’s circle.    The end (but not really as it’s just the beginning!)

Prayer To Change

Prayer Warrior. Do you know one? I know several. Unfortunately those words don’t describe me. I’d like to change that.

Prayer is a discipline that has never been a strength of mine. It should be as important as talking to our family or friends. It’s not. At least for me.

I get bored easily and sometimes the thought of praying turns me off. It’s something I have, in the past, dreaded rather than looked forward to.

I think my problem is two-fold. First; I haven’t been very disciplined about it. Second; I’ve looked at it as too much of a discipline.

Yeah you read that right. I think my problem with prayer lies in who I think I’m praying to. My thinking has been all wrong. It’s been about me rather than Him. It’s been about performance rather than relationship. It’s been about one more To Do or get punished, rather than about grace and love.

Sometimes I treat God as my personal Genie in a Bottle.

That’s not I AM. Almighty God. Heavenly Father. I find I don’t know God, like I should after all this time. Instead I find I easily believe in the lies that the enemy whispers in my ear. I’m not okay with that anymore.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve been reading Craig Groeschel’s book, Daily Power. I mentioned about picking just one discipline to work on this year to get you where you want to be by December.

You’ve guessed by now, I chose prayer. I believe prayer leads the way to change because it takes you into the presence of God. Real prayer is letting go of the Genie factor, and surrendering to Him. In letting go of my lies and preconceived notions, I can begin to get to know God in a personal way. Communication is the best way to get to know someone, right? That’s where I want to be in December. I knew I needed some help in getting started.

A series of events, led to me the book, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. It has changed my thinking about prayer and how I pray. It has also challenged my lack of faith and frankly, my whining.

I recently read these words in The Circle Maker:

”…the will of God doesn’t get easier. The will of God gets harder. Here’s why: the harder it gets, the harder you have to pray.
God will keep putting you in situations that stretch your faith, and as your faith stretches, so do your dreams…And it won’t get easier; it’ll get harder. It won’t get less complicated; it’ll get more complicated. But complications are evidence of God’s blessing. And if it’s from God, then it’s a holy complication.” (p.111, The Circle Maker)

Ironically, this was encouraging to me. Why? We don’t need more complications, right? Shouldn’t God be making our lives more easy?

If that’s the case, I’m doing something drastically wrong. How about you? The more I obey God, the more complicated life gets. So Batterson’s words make a lot of sense and comfort me. I’m not going crazy. We think when things go awry or get complicated, we’ve done something wrong, right? But if we are following God’s will, the complications are holy and viewing them in that perspective changes everything. Maybe we are doing something right.

Up to now, this is where I usually give up. But Batterson says this is where you have to dig in.

“This is where many of us get stuck spiritually. We’re willing to pray right up to the point of discomfort, but no further. We’re willing to pray right up t the point of inconvenience, but no further. Praying hard is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but that is when you know you’re getting close to a miracle!” (p. 112, The Circle Maker)

One of the things that always put me off prayer was it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to get up earlier to pray. I didn’t want to stop and take time out of my day to pray. My agenda was too busy. My pride said I was more important. I didn’t really trust that prayer was going to do anything because I didn’t trust God.

I was having trouble praying because I was still working under the idea I had to earn everything, including answers to prayer. I knew I was a mess so why would He answer? I didn’t trust Him because I really didn’t know Him. Not like a daughter. Not like a friend. Or heir.

This is where I want to be, come December. Daughter, friend, heir. Making time to speak to God is key to getting there. It’s baby steps but already shifts are happening. That’s the power of prayer and I hope to not only discover that power but know deeply the one who wields it.

 

How to Get to December’s Destination

I didn’t set out this year to have a resolution or Word for the year. Like I said in an earlier post, I would rather a map. Surprisingly that desired map has morphed from the devotional book, Daily Power by Craig Groeschel.

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In the devotional for January 2, Groeschel writes, “One small decision today could have a big impact on tomorrow.” He encourages the reader to pick one discipline to work on this year. Something that will deepen our relationship with Christ, which ultimately puts us exactly where God desires.

Disciplines. Ugh. Can’t say I have a stellar record in that department lately. But Groeschel makes it sound simple which is good. Simple is about all I can manage right now. He says to pick one. I could pick several that need work but as Groeschel is firm on this, I pick only one.

January 2nd’s devotional was also a reminder that our decisions today, both good and bad, affect our tomorrows.

It’s a subject he touches on throughout the month of January. He writes on January 27th, “I’m a firm believer that the actions you take today sow the seeds of your future. Your daily habits will create a cumulative impact on what you do tomorrow, next week, and next year.”

As I read that, I realize how lazy I’ve gotten. I’ve let go of some good daily habits, some I had cultivated for years. At the present, I’m like a leaf in the wind, going wherever the wind blows. I don’t think it matters what I do, so why bother? Groeschel says just the opposite. He’s saying change is possible, one small habit or decision at a time. If I want to change then I need to look to my destination instead of my past. I may have to start making good decision to get me there. A map of sorts.

This came up the other day in conversation. Someone told me that a task they had to do “didn’t matter.” It wasn’t important in their minds. I thought about that and put it up against what I had been reading in Groeschel’s book.

I disagreed. Everything we do, it matters. Even the little inconsequential things. It may not be the task itself, but the attitude behind it. That smile at a stranger may be the only positive interaction they have that day. The course we thought was a waste of time, opened up a door to something else we loved. We just never know and so to some extent, yes, it matters. The key is looking at the bigger picture. Does our decision, our attitude get us closer to our purpose, our goal to be transformed?

What do we have to do to get to the place where God will work in our lives? Where do I want to be, come December?

It’s not a striving, or chasing either. A list of “To Do’s” that’s going to put me on the good girl list. This is having a living, breathing relationship with God.

Where I want to be in December is not where I am standing right now. So I will work on that one discipline, starting with those small daily habits that may seem mundane but pack a lot of punch when added up. I will use this not-what-I-was-expecting map to help me get to December’s destination.

How ‘bout you? Where do you want to be come December and how will you get there?

 

Raising Up Daniels in a Babylonian World

As my husband’s been speaking on Daniel the last couple of weekends, I’ve been reminded how relevant Daniel still is in 2018. Mark’s tag line the first week was: “When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”

Automatically my thoughts went to our sons who are just entering their teen years and becoming men. Men who hopefully will become Daniels in a increasingly Babylonian world.

There’s so little tolerance for men or Christians today that I feel like our boys begin with three strikes against them. As a parent it concerns me, but I remind myself it’s not any different than Daniel’s experience. He was a Jew, and a slave, held captive by the Babylonian Empire. An alien in an alien world. Those are some pretty big strikes against him!

 

 

But Daniel was doing some things right. He obviously had some charisma that went along with a winsome attitude, as Mark mentioned yesterday. Because of his favourable attitude and respect for those in authority, Daniel found favour with those in charge over him.

But what really made Daniel a stand out? He never let his eyes stray from his God. I’m sure there was lots to look at in Babylon. Idols, women, riches and so much more. It was a heathen heaven so to speak. Daniel however, kept focused on who he believed in and chose to follow the only one true God when it would have been so much easier to choose a different path.

It is my prayer that as our boys grow up, they will do the same. That they will keep their focus on the one true God. Because there will be lots to look at; idols, women, riches and so much more. But if they keep their eyes on God and truly live out what they believe and know is truth, the rest falls into place.

Does it mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns? That would be a resounding no. Being a Daniel in a Babylonian world means you’re going to have some major trouble. You can count on it. (Lions den anyone?) And when that trouble comes barrelling down, God is going to help them stand up against it. You can count on that too.

What does being a Daniel look like? Love when it’s easier to hate. Generosity when it’s easier to keep it all for self. Not having the last word. Admitting being wrong. Being bold. Standing up for what is true. Self-control. Being a Daniel can only be done with the help of God. The good news is he’s given us a helper, the Holy Spirit and He’s there for the asking.

He’s ready to help everyone. Including me. It’s far too easy as an adult to hide away and think it’s a lesson only for my kids. I need to raise myself up as a Daniel too.
If I want my boys to be Daniels, as parents we need to lead the way. Disciple them in Daniel 101.

We need to keep our focus on God and not look to the right and get caught up in circumstances or to the left and get sucked into the lies of Babylon. More stuff will not make it better. Only Jesus will.

I need to be willing to put myself out there, what about you? Ah, but there’s the rub. It means engaging with people. I like my glass castle that keeps me isolated. Most days, I avoid as much human contact as possible. Because life’s just easier that way isn’t it? If we don’t engage we can’t say or do the wrong thing.

That kind of living makes up impotent. We were created to have relationships. Daniel was a slave in a foreign land, but God didn’t let him off the hook. We’re not excused either. I can’t really model Daniel to my four walls. I can’t expect from my boys what I am not willing to do myself.

“When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”  Mark Willcock

(Friends I am preaching this message to myself first and foremost!)

A Map for New Year’s

Happy 2018!

It’s the start of a new year and people have been making plans, choosing words and verses, making resolutions for this next year. It’s all good stuff but what I really want for this new shiny year? A map.

A map to show me how to navigate the year 2018 because at the moment I feel profoundly lost. Also, bewildered comes to mind.

 

I no longer recognize parts of this world that I’ve inhabited for a long time. I feel like I’m in some other alternate universe or maybe how Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole.

I don’t understand the culture, the trends and the language. I doubt myself and then doubt those around me. Some days I don’t even recognize myself or how I got here. So a map would be super helpful. Because I don’t want to get further lost because I might not get back.

I’ve been fascinated with the theme of being lost. What does it really mean to be lost? Is being lost really a bad thing? Maybe it’s just a detour and in fact, you aren’t lost at all but are right on course.

If you are lost what happens if you aren’t found? Can you find yourself? Do you actually need someone to find you? If you are really lost, can you turn it into something positive? What if you don’t want to be found? Or is being lost just part of the journey? Because we all get lost sometimes right? See what I mean? Fascinating.

Honestly I don’t have any answers. I’m still trying to figure this out, hence the wish for a map.

Did they have maps in the bible? The closest thing I could think of was the wise men from the east, following the star for a very long time and at the end of their journey, they found Jesus.

You may be thinking you’d like a map too. But our maps may not be the same. My journey through 2018 is probably going to look very different from yours. So although we both have maps, our travels will be different and you may use a tablet or phone to look at your map where I may use a paper one. But in the end, we get to the destination we are supposed to. Hopefully.

Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, that the star was so out of the ordinary that the wise men took it to mean that some extraordinary person was born and since the star sat over Judea, that’s where the person was. He goes on to state that the shepherds were told about Christ’s birth by an angel. They were Jews, they would understand and believe in angels. The men from the east, understood a star because they studied them and worshipped them. “..to both God spoke in their own language, and in the same way they were best acquainted with.” God gave them their own unique maps which they could understand and follow.

So we’ll have individual maps. Which is awesome but the fact is, I don’t have any map at the moment. Not a star. Nor an angel.

As I read the wise men and the shepherds’ accounts, I realize that God did not give them the whole enchilada. He gave them one thing to follow. An angel. To listen to and then follow instruction. A star. To recognize it for what it was and then follow it. For a long time.

After the night at the stables, what did the shepherds do? We aren’t told. But God unfolded the maps of their lives in due time.

With the wise men we have a little more insight into what happened afterwards. They run into Herod in Jerusalem, find Jesus in Bethlehem and then are warned in a dream to go home another route. Each direction was given at the right time and the right place. They weren’t given more. They were given enough.

God often works this way. I don’t particularly like it. I want the whole map. Not just the next step. The story of the wise men reminds me of the truth. Although a map would be nice, we only get the next step. And when we’ve taken that step, then we are given the next.

Who gives the directions? Like the star and the angel, God sends us the directions in a way we can understand. It may be people, it may be through prayer and reading the Bible. It may be through circumstances. The one thing I do know is that God meets us where we are and he’ll use whatever He chooses to get our attention, to direct our paths. It can literally be anything. We don’t need the whole map, we just need to be open to following His lead.

 

Some fav Quotes about Being Lost:

“He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found. Maybe accident isn’t the right word after all. Maybe miracle is.
Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.” Just One Day by Gayle Forman, p. 367

“I wasn’t lost. Just because you couldn’t find me doesn’t mean I was lost.” The Edge of Recall by Kirsten Heitzmann p. 208

“God seeks the lost and pursues the broken.” Rachel Harter, incourage.me.blog Aug 30/17 titled, Lessons in Rock Hunting

Ezekiel 34:16(NLT) I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes–feed them justice!