4 Ways to Feed Your Faith

Carnivore. Vegetarian. Vegan. Gluten free. Dairy free. Organic. Eating for our blood type. So many “eating” options are before us, at least in the land where I live. We give great attention to our food intake, knowing it affects our physical health. 

I’ve often asked myself: What would my physical health be like if I ate physical food in same way I ate spiritual food?

Would I be healthy and energetic? Malnourished? Would I have so little nourishment that my appetite would be gone? Would I be getting by, but with needed changes? Or, would I be dead?

These are important questions to ponder—because spiritually, like physically, we are what we eat.

It’s easy to eat food on the fly, while running out the door. Or, to just grab something someone hands to us in a drive-through. However, these aren’t the meals that do us the most good, or the ones which we remember.

Do you feed your faith “on the fly,” or mostly when someone hands something to you in a “spiritual drive-through?” Do you pay careful attention to your intake, or lack thereof? It’s crucial to take time to eat at the spiritual dinner table.

How healthy is your faith? Is it well fed and growing, or is it waning? Thankfully, we can build ourselves up in faith. While we can become physically healthier through our eating habits, surely eternal life is of greater importance than physical life.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
(Jude 1:20-21)

Maybe you have been disappointed, or have been struggling to see God at work in your life—wanting to see victories that don’t seem to happen. Perhaps you feel as if life is going in the opposite direction from your desires. As a result, faith can suffer– tempting us to lose our appetite for the spiritual nourishment we need. Consequently, we are more apt to consume “junk food” that’s neither satisfying, nor good for us. It can come in the form of mind consuming social media and entertainment, or people or things that confuse our spiritual focus.

So how do we feed our faith?  Here are some simple reminders.

  1. We’ve got to eat the meat—or at least protein. There’s no substitute for opening the Bible and taking in the words of God. When we read, we can remember the power of God, his kindness, his love, and his truths…for faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

And, let the word digest. Take time to really listen. Take time to see God. See him at creation. See him with Moses, David, and Mary. See him raise the dead and see Jesus raised from death. Be amazed at the magnitude and minutia of his creation. Take time to read the word. Take time to hear the word spoken. Sometimes, hearing the word of God spoken out loud speaks to me even more keenly, while at other times silent meditation moves my heart and mind.

  1. Invite others to “eat with you.” We need each other. Sometimes I need to “do my own cooking” spiritually, while at other times my faith is fed through others. When friends are hurting, or going through trials or life changes we often encourage them by sending physical meals. Often, food prepared for others is arranged through an internet tool called “the meal train.” Perhaps we could also encourage each other with “spiritual meal trains,” as together we encourage one another’s faith.  When I feel weak or hurting, nothing encourages me more than receiving a meaningful Scripture that speaks to my particular needs.

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know…Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  
(1 Thess. 3:2-4,10)

 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  (Romans 1:1-12)

It’s a special treat to “go out to eat.” Likewise, it’s a privilege and special time to “go out to eat spiritual food” as we meet together as a church, worship together, and  hear the word preached.  Neglecting this privilege and responsibility will weaken our faith.

  1. Sharing our personal faith feeds our faith. Yes, inviting people to church can be helpful…as friends may come and open their hearts to seeking God. But there is so much more involved in sharing our faith. Sharing our faith reminds us of what God has done in our lives. As you read the book of Acts, the disciples went everywhere sharing what God had done in their lives. It’s crucial, as the Scriptures state, to be active in sharing our faith. This feeds our faith.

  I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
(Philemon 1:4-6)

As we hear encouraging news of how God is working in others’ lives, it strengthens our faith. We can’t hear these workings of God if we aren’t actively sharing them. Sometimes, without this focus, we can forget the mighty ways God has and is continuing to work on our behalf.
 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:8)

  1. Take supplements to strengthen your faith.

Often, in addition to reading the Bible, gaining encouragement from others and being encouraged, and sharing my faith I’m strengthened by spiritual books and spiritual songs. I try to always be reading spiritual books, and I’ve gained so much from them. At times, music strengthens my faith like nothing else can do at the time. 

 
  When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.
(2 Timothy 4:14 NLT)


Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
(Colossians 3:16 MSG)

You may feel you have little faith, but it can grow if you feed it. Fortunately, our faith does not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Even a little faith, with God’s huge power, can move mountains.
 I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it— and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,
  which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 MSG, emphasis added)

 

 

 

Digging Out from Disappointment

We’ve all felt it. It comes in various shapes and sizes without respect for age or background. It can kick you in the gut—when you don’t get a desired job, or make the team, or garner attention from someone you were sure you would marry. Maybe it stabbed you when a trip to the bathroom dashed your hopes of a longed-for pregnancy. I still remember several years of that longing-turned-disappointment.

As we live more years and know more people, disappointments seem to loom at every corner. We feel the disappointments of poor choices made by friends or family (or ourselves)—and relationships that didn’t turn out the ways we had envisioned. Often they come in the form of health challenges. We don’t ask for them, plan for them or desire them in any way. ~1524161

As I have mentioned before, my husband has a (still) undiagnosed central nervous system disorder. In a year’s time this villain has stolen his ability to walk, caused great fatigue and various other difficulties. However, recent MRI findings brought us new hope for a treatment that could “fix it.” The doctors thought they saw a vein formation putting pressure on the spinal cord. To confirm this MRI “finding” my husband would need to go through a procedure (an angiogram) to locate and treat the problem.

We counted the days until August 10th—the day of the procedure. Though we knew it was not a sure cure, the doctors were hopeful and so were we. Full of faith, we dreamed of how we’d celebrate our new miracle.

Instead, the procedure showed the MRI findings to be false. To add insult to injury, he had a very difficult time waking up from anesthesia causing enough concern to land him an extra hospital stay.VZM.IMG_20160810_224055 The night he came home he developed a high fever from infection. That day was also the hottest day of the year, and for some unknown reason the power in our house went out. It felt like cruel irony—power gone. It seemed that all we had hoped for resulted in “disappointment on steroids.” A hard kick in the gut.

With significant sleep deprivation, the next morning I sat in a 100 degree parking lot outside of a lab while holding a little sterile jar of pee in a bag—and sobbed. And prayed. And wrestled with God. I asked him if he had heard me, and if he cared. I “reasoned” with him that we could accomplish so much more with renewed mobility and energy. I reminded God of his promises and how faith- building it would have been for all the grandchildren who fervently pray for their Papa.

I felt like I was sinking in mud and getting nowhere—like a time I got my car stuck in mud. The car wouldn’t move forward, and sank lower and lower. I then reasoned that if perhaps I stepped on the accelerator a little harder I get could get out. Instead, mud flew and I sank even deeper.

Several things were needed in order to dig out. (A good cry was one of them.) I didn’t want to sink in the mud then, and I don’t want to sink in my disappointment now. With my car, I needed some solid ground, some trial and error, a push and a tow in order to move forward. I needed the same in that hot parking lot, holding the sad, now infected jar of pee.

When my car was stuck, I grabbed handfuls of nearby gravel—solid ground to put beneath the wheels. Likewise, when sinking in disappointment I must find solid ground—“one piece of gravel” at a time. The solid ground is truth. I must hold on to truth. We live in spiritual battleground and Satan wants me to believe the lies—that God doesn’t care or have our best interest. Two of the many “truth rocks” I rely on are:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:16-18a)

 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge…

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.
(Psalm 62:5-7, 11-12)

The solid ground also includes the majesty of creation. As I observe nature and smell the summer gardens, view the sunset and hear the oceans roar I am reminded that God is the potter. I am the clay. As I see around me the love of a mother for her child and witness lives who have radically changed— I know love is from God. God loves me. He hears me. I rely on this. I know this in my mind and place it in my heart. I don’t have the big picture. He does.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

The solid ground includes the immeasurable blessings and answered prayers I have already received from my father: My salvation, his spirit within me, and the hope of eternal life top the list.

My husband, who is a godly man of integrity is also a blessing I don’t deserve. Though not so physically strong now, to me he has never seemed stronger. The relationship I share with my children and grandchildren cause my cup to overflow with joy. My friends are a beautiful result of this solid foundation. I am blessed to be part of a loving, vibrant church who lives for God.

I dig out by finding solid ground and placing it in my heart and mind. Sometimes it takes trial and error. I don’t always get it right but God is gracious.

Sometimes I can’t seem to find the solid ground, or the gravel seems to slip from my hand. That’s how I felt in that parking lot. So, in that hot parking lot I texted my daughters and friends to tell them I was hurting and needed help. I needed encouragement. And they sent it. In scriptures, in prayers, and in encouraging words. I needed the push, and the tow to help me dig out.

And I have hope. No disease or disappointment can take that away.

Grab your solid ground, keep trying, ask for a push, and don’t be afraid to be towed. Remember you don’t have to drive alone. God has this. He always has. Our heavy foot on the accelerator doesn’t help. With God, I can do this. You can do this. Let’s dig out together.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of  the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3a)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Our Children to Pray

Nothing shouts sincerity louder than the sound of little children speaking to their creator.   However, as one of Jesus’ disciples states in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray…” we all need help in learning to pray.

The children we once taught to pray now have praying children of their own. I now love the occasions when I have the opportunity to pray with my grandchildren.  I love “hearing their hearts” and am often inspired by the honesty and detail with which they pray. IMG_3626

I think back to numerous times when my faith was challenged by my children’s prayers. I confess that at times I wished to myself that they had not prayed a particular prayer which I faithlessly believed could not happen.

Like the time they prayed fervently for a puppy…day after day.

Several months later an Irish Setter puppy showed up at our door.  Seriously. I opened the front door and it was right there staring at me. Eyeball to eyeball as if to say…”Oh you of little faith.”   The dog stayed with us for days until its owner was finally found. By then we were persuaded to get a dog…and have had one ever since. My children were not surprised.

While I’m not saying a puppy will show up at your door, I am saying that we must not underestimate the power of prayer.

As I think back to prayer times with our young children I remember times when their prayers scared me. Often they would express their love to God and tell him how much they wanted to be with him. While I loved this and longed for this simplicity of child-like trust, I would follow up with God afterward and let him know that I understood that they wanted to be with him…but this scared me and I longed for them to stay here with us.

I also remember times when they were preschoolers when I initiated prayer time before bed and they refused to pray (at least the one of them did this). This sometimes messed with my mind. Would it be wrong to “demand” that they pray? Would this warp their genuine heartfelt desire for God because they felt they “had” to pray?  Remember….I’m talking little ones here…little ones who can be stubborn and try to take control.  I realized that these times were simply about “who was going to win” and that my “win” as a parent was crucial. By the way, it did not hurt their future prayer life or heartfelt love for God

So what are helpful ways we can teach our children to pray?

  1. Set the example.  It seems most obvious, but there is nothing more important than our example. Do our children see and hear us pray? I mean “really” pray? Not just the quick prayer before a meal, but talking with God when we don’t know how to handle a situation…or when we are worried…or when we are thankful…or when someone we know has a need… Do they see us pray often and spontaneously? Do they hear true thankfulness in our hearts when we thank God for the food on our plates, or for the gifts we receive, or unexpected blessings…or even challenges? When they are in a spat with a sibling or unsure of what to do…do we lead them to prayer?
  2. Give them some practical ideas.  It helped our children to have some structure in their prayers. When they were very young my husband or I started the prayer and let them follow with words from their heart. I started by talking about why I loved God and loved talking to him. Then I began the prayer with: Thank you for _________ and let them fill in things for which they were thankful. Gratitude is always a good place to start. From there I would continue:  Please help ________ and encouraged them to ask God to help others who were in need–those who were sick, or poor, or orphaned, or sad. They also prayed for people we knew and hoped would learn the Bible and become Christians. Next, I would add the sentence…Help me __________ and encourage them to pray about areas of their character where they needed God to help them grow stronger. Then we’d end by expressing our heart toward God starting with…I love you because_______________. and then share with God reasons why we loved him.   We didn’t follow this every time, but we did this often while they were young.
  3. Pray with them. Often. Nothing brings us closer to another than going to God with them.  I still love to pray with my adult children. Nothing helps me get in touch with my heart more than when I pray together with someone. Nothing helps me know the heart of another more than praying with them.  And….In Matthew 18:20 God tells me that “whenever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

So, set the example, give practical ideas and pray with your children.  It can make an eternal difference.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thess. 5:16-18

Taking Risks

Risks motivate me as long as I feel they are safe, in the same way that spontaneity thrills me as long as it is planned.  Needless to say, I need courage to take risks.  Risks to be uncomfortable because of my faith; risks to be truthful and bold when truth may not be appreciated; risks to experience cultures that aren’t known to me; and risks to embrace the lives of others when they complicate mine.

Yesterday, I learned a lesson from the birds that took residence in my hanging geranium plant on my front porch.  I was blessed, a few days before I left for a European business trip, to peek into the recently built nest as mama bird laid her eggs, one by one. IMG_5075 As I twice daily climbed onto a chair to peer into the nest when it seemed time for the eggs to hatch—I just happened to glance at the exact time the first bird was hatching.  I marveled at the process that took place. 0609141313a As I checked the nest throughout the day, one  bird after another hatched—until all five eggs were replaced by five tiny, bald, awkward looking,  bird-like creatures.  For several days I watched the mother and father bird feed the babies as they oversaw their little brood while perched on the utility wire above the nest.  Then, I had to leave town for ten days.

When I returned, I realized that while I had flown nearly 10,000 miles— the baby birds had flown nowhere.  They remained on the nest, even though they looked like fully developed little birds.  They ventured beyond the nest on the branches of the  plant, but did not go beyond the safety of their known geranium-world—into the wild, blue, and unknown sky. IMG_5253

I wondered how long they would stay safe in their nest, and what it would feel like to fly for the first time.  Would their wings be strong enough?  Would they be able to survive on their own?  What would it feel like to face the first thunderstorm?

In the meantime, my sad little geranium was thirsting for water.  I had at times carefully watered around the nest, but yesterday’s heat was showing stress on the plant.  So, with water pot in hand, I stood atop the chair and carefully watered around the little birds—assuring them I wouldn’t hurt them.

Evidently,  the looming prospect of “death by geranium drowning” was all the motivation this little family needed to take the risk—to fly away.  Suddenly, one of the little ones “just did it.”  It successfully  flew away to the nearby tree.  As soon as this little bird left the nest and hit the airways—the others followed.  Poof—they were gone, not to return.  It will be a whole new world for them, complete with today’s thunderstorm. IMG_5255

While I would like to think I am always motivated to “fly” and take new, scary steps  because of deep faith and the thrill of the unknown — too  often it is because I realize what might happen if I don’t fly.  While I likely won’t be submerged in geranium water—I realize that when I don’t step out on faith there are consequences.  Most importantly, I can’t please God without faith.  People I could serve may not be helped if I hesitate; I’ll withhold truth; and someone who may be searching for the life that God offers  may not hear about it.  While I realize each person is responsible for their own life, I am also called to live by faith—faith  that allow God to work through my life.  If I don’t, my faith will atrophy and I’ll “die in the nest.”  That’s motivation to fly with.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel …

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Hebrews 11:1-4, 6

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

What holds you back from taking a fresh leap of faith?  As I remember the scriptures and those who have courageously stepped out before me, I am encouraged to take new steps of faith, even though it’s scary.  I realize there are always risks….but the risks are even greater if I don’t leave the nest.   Thankfully, God will always be the air that lifts my wings—and Jesus “flew first.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31  

(As the pictures chronicle the bird experience, be assured that no birds or geraniums were harmed in the process.) 

 

Clarity

Do you sometimes feel like your life can be as pictured here – running in circles but not really getting where you intend to go? IMG_4208 I like to think that my dog, Denver,  is quite a smart dog – however, he has a habit that causes me to shed doubt on his doggie “Mensa  IQ status.”  He chases his tail.  He quite enjoys the chase, and is often successful in catching it.  He then just follows his tail around in circles…seemingly unaware that he is spinning around getting nowhere.  The problem lies with the goal of his activity and pursuit.   Unfortunately, his goal lies no further than the tip of his rear end.

Do you ever feel like you expend a lot of energy, but in reality end up not accomplishing the most important things- those that last eternally?  Perhaps your goal is not clear or has gotten lost in the cares, desires for other things and the pleasures of life (Mk. 4:18-19.)

I can, like Martha, get busy about many things and thus distracted from what is most important.  Luke 10:38-42

    As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. [39] She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. [40] But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

    [41] “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I must remind myself again and again (and God does a good job at reminding me through the scriptures) that the things I seek to accomplish need to be summed up primarily in two clear practical realities – Loving God and loving people.

Matthew 22:34-40

    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. [35] One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: [36] “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    [37] Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [40] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Practically, I can be busy doing many things in my life, but if I am not spending time with God in prayer and learning to better obey his word….and loving others by caring for them, sharing Jesus with them, and helping them get to heaven I will resemble Denver…busy chasing what will accomplish nothing of everlasting value.

In the choices you make with how you spend your time….are these two most important things clear to you and to those who observe your life?

Another Turkey at the Door!

I am still smiling, somewhat in disbelief from my little photo shoot that happened a few minutes ago.  Several months back I saw a turkey at someone’s front door and took a picture of this unusual scene. This prompted me to write about surprises and opportunities that often await us, lurking outside our doors – and our need to respond to them spiritually.

I decided to title my next book (currently in the editing process) “When There’s a Turkey at Your Door.”  The book is meant to entertain, but more importantly meant to help and encourage the reader to apply God’s word to real life happenings.   Unfortunately, the photo I took that day was not sharp, and can’t be used for a book cover.  Since then, I have been carrying my “point and shoot” camera in my purse…because you never know when a turkey may be at your door. 🙂

Yes,  I secretly prayed to get a new opportunity for a photo, so wanted to be prepared at all times – all the while, knowing that the odds of this every happening again would be slim to none. However, I decided I would be prepared –  just in case.

While driving home about an hour ago I saw a turkey heading toward a house.  After stopping my car in the road, I quietly emerged from the driver’s seat – camera in hand.  I tiptoed toward the turkey, while going back and forth behind some stranger’s parked truck so I could maneuver the turkey toward the door. I tiptoed; he tiptoed and…Voila…A turkey at the door! In fact, he went to the back door and the front door.

I got back in the car quite encouraged, and then thought of the following scriptures about “preparedness.”

2 Tim. 2:21
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

2 Tim. 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

I was convicted and inspired as I asked myself the questions: “How prepared am to serve in any way at a moment’s notice?

How prepared am I to use the Bible in my relationships with others?

How prepared am I to share my faith?”

I certainly want to be more prepared for these things than I was for the turkey at the door.The stakes are incomparable.  I also realize that the opportunities to respond to all three of these questions are before me every day, including today.  What opportunity, or challenge is at your door?

Crashing Through the Quitting Places

Often, I take the back roads near my house in order to access the main highway.  Though this path is quite curvy to navigate, the scenery is striking.  My favorite corner along this route houses a pasture where a large horse can often be seen grazing.  Two miniature horses are usually accompanying him.  These beautiful animals always bring a smile to my face.  I go a little further and approach what the townspeople  here call “death bridge”.  It is a narrow, rickety one-way bridge that spans over the railroad tracks below.

As I prepare to cross the bridge my eyes always come to rest on a landmark that has become an eyesore to me, and likely to all who pass by.   Several years ago a garden center occupied several acres in this location.  It was sold to a developer who planned to build an active retirement community.  The developer displayed his plans, and made a start….but never finished.  Years later this project consists of a few unfinished cement walls covered with graffiti and weeds.

For some reason, the builder did not finish what was started.  I don’t know what obstacles stood in the way.  Perhaps he could not get the financing or he ran into various permit restrictions.  Maybe he just changed his mind.  Whatever happened, this collection of cement, graffiti and weeds is now only a monument to what “could have been”.  I  am always reminded of the scripture on the cost of following Jesus described in Luke 14:28-30

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, [30] saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

I want my life to always reflect Jesus, instead of becoming an unfinished monument to “almost, woulda, shoulda”.

Often, we are tempted to quit before we reach breakthroughs that bring about victory or completion.  Perseverance is hard.  We don’t even ‘experience’ perseverance until we want to quit.

When are you tempted to quit?  Perhaps it is when trying overcome a character weakness or sin; or perhaps it is beginning a new, good habit.  Maybe you know you need to find God and yet find excuses that keep you from following through.  You may need to resolve a relationship that seems too hard or begin one that seems overwhelming.   Do you have a dream you want to pursue…but think of a thousand reasons why it won’t work?

Through the years I have come to trust that God is capable of empowering me to do whatever He asks of me.  Yet, there are times I tire of pushing through difficulties, or welcoming new areas where I  can grow spiritually.  Sometimes I  get weary of simple mundane tasks like dishes, laundry and flossing my teeth.  Then I think of scriptures such as Hebrews 10:35-39

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. [36] You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. [37] For in just a very little while,

“He who is coming will come and will not delay.

[38] But my righteous one will live by faith.

And if he shrinks back,

I will not be pleased with him.”

[39] But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

These words help me to crash through the quitting places in my life. And I still hope that one day, as I pass by the concrete slab on the way to the highway…the weeds will be gone and the foundation that was started will be a vibrant and active community, another garden center, or even a pasture where a few more horses can feed. It’s not too late.

Erasing “Not Possible”

Often, during times when I visited Eastern Europe on business, I brought with me a plethora of tasks that needed to be accomplished.  I met with many different people to begin the process of various undertakings such as the summer HOPE Youth Corps, the home for orphans, and even our own adoption experience.  Two words were often repeated – “not possible”.   I would hear the phrase, “not possible” over and over again in response to numerous requests and situations.  Though I realized much of the reason for this stemmed from a culture that had been under a dictatorship for many years… I still despised that phrase.  To me, that phrase sort of “puts its toe over the line” – as if to dare me to try to go forward.  These types of situations get my spiritual adrenaline juices going,… because I know that God specializes in the impossible.  When I hear “it’s not possible” –  it excites me to see what God might do.

I grew up with a dad who displayed a sign on his desk that read, “Now tell me all the reasons why it can be done.”  This exemplified  to me his character and faith.   I also remember a  time listening to my oldest sister recount a conversation with a police officer concerning a ticket she had gotten for going down a one-way street the wrong way.   Instead of paying a fine, she persuaded the court to change the road to become a two way street.  I have been inspired by the faith of so many I have seen around me and read so many accounts of real men and women in the Bible who stepped out on faith to witness God do the impossible.   So, I am well acquainted with examples of those who saw obstacles and challenges as mere “hiccups”.

More importantly, my spiritual Father created the universe out of darkness and void, closed the mouths of lions, and drenched a parched land from a tiny cloud – just to mention a very few feats.  He brought a nation of people from a closed womb, sent his son to be born of a virgin and then raised him from the dead.   His finest work comes from the most unlikely and impossible situations.

Sometimes, it takes tenaciousness and sometimes it requires our stepping out of our comfort zone to be used to change a situation.  I remember one particular (albeit  insignificant) situation like this.  I was pregnant with our first child and decided I wanted to stay (or get) in shape and take an exercise class.  So, I went to a neighborhood gym and inquired about joining a class for pregnant women.  The manager gave me an inquisitive look and told me there was no such thing.  I proceeded to convince him that this was a big mistake for their business and they needed to offer such a class.  In fact, they should pay me to teach it.  Granted, I had no background in this and didn’t know what I was doing.  I probably looked ridiculous.  I wore an old purple sweat suit that I wore when exercising (we had little money so it had to suffice as my exercise wardrobe.)   I looked much like an Easter egg.

Next thing I knew I was the new instructor for the “maternity aerobics” class.  I felt very out of my element…so purchased a “Jane Fonda”  video tape for pregnant women and did exactly what she did (well at least attempted to).  I thrill seeing possibilities unfold from “not possible” responses.

When you are faced with a situation that seems to have reached a dead end it is certainly possible that God is simply saying “no”.  However, it is also possible that He may want to use you or circumstances around you to change a seemingly impossible situation.  In order to find out, it takes our stepping out on faith…most often out of our comfort zones.   What situations do you face that seem impossible to change… even when you know they need to change and it is within God’s plan for them to change?  What are some things that stretch your imagination to envision being different?  Maybe it’s seeing an obstacle be overcome, changing something in your character, or healing a relationship.  You may have numerous “not possibles” in your mind.  As you think of them,  consider the following scriptures:

Romans 4:17-21

  As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.   Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” [19] Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. [20] Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, [21] being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Ephes. 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What “not possibles” might you erase by trusting that God is able to do more than you dare ask or imagine?

 

 

 

 

Conquering the Black Jeans

I have a job to complete.  I’m sitting at my kitchen counter with my “Hello Kitty” sewing machine… hemming some black jeans.   (Yes, I use a “Hello Kitty” sewing machine.  It is simple enough for me to use, and I figured that I could teach my grandkids to sew with it.)   I purchased these jeans for my husband about 3 years ago because they were his size…sort of.  I found them on sale for one dollar.  Yes, …one dollar.  The size was not marked,  but they looked about right for him.  They fit him well, except for the length.  I think that is why these jeans were on sale.  They would have fit well if he were about 8½ feet tall.  He is tall, but not that tall.  Well, I am happy to report that I just completed the job.

For some reason, I have procrastinated hemming these jeans for those 3 years.  I’m ashamed to say that they have been folded in the corner of our room for that entire time.  It actually took me three minutes to get the sewing machine set up with the needed black thread.  It took about another five minutes to hem both pants legs and another minute to put the machine back in the closet.  That’s it. Three years to actually make the decision to act …which took nine minutes to complete.

This new year, I wanted to begin by conquering this silly, crazy thing that had been hanging over my head  for much too long.  It’s eleven o’clock in the evening and I was not going to let another day pass without facing this.  The other thing I put off for way too long was getting rid of a cobweb in the corner of my shower.  It required my getting a footstool and wiping the corner of the shower stall.  Not a big deal, but every day for months  I would look up at that corner and say to myself, “I really should do something about this.”  Well, I’m happy to say the cobweb is gone.   I am quite sure I have spent much more time thinking about “getting around to it” than it actually took to do it.  I had to come to a point where I decided it was time to act on my good intentions saying….If I don’t do it today, then when will I…really?

While these two things are not really important in the big scheme of things they had gotten the best of me.  I just didn’t want to do them….yet.  However, I was always planning to “get around to it”.

Putting off until tomorrow can be a dangerous habit, especially if it effects life issues that are of utmost importance.  Perhaps you have been thinking of pursuing or strengthening your relationship with God….or changing something that keeps you from following him wholeheartedly.  Or maybe it’s just a small task like I mention above.  Sometimes, like Felix in the scripture below…we put something off because of fear of change.

Acts 24:24-25

    Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. [25] As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

Other times, it is easy to just get complacent thinking that nothing is really that urgent.  The scriptures soberly speak to this as well.

Luke 12:18-21

    “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

    [20] “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

At any rate, I feel so much better after hemming those “dollar jeans” and wiping away the cobwebs.  What are you procrastinating?  Go for it today.  It could make the difference for the day, the year, or even eternity.