Friday, April 17, 2015

Limited Data

I am coming off somewhat of an internet fast.  Last month, there was a little too much month left when I received an alert that we were down to just ten percent of our remaining data.  And so, I jumped off the grid for everything but the absolute necessary business, and I took advantage of wifi wherever it was available.

What was draining me?

The basic problem was that my phone was defaulting at all times to my limited data, so even when I was at home or in a place where my phone should have recognized wifi, I was using up my limited allotted data for the month.  I didn't realize it until it was too late.  Those tiny little GB's of data disappear incredibly fast, even for the most mundane of tasks such as checking email or the weather, and in hyper-speed for anything like items with streamed video.

But when I am linked to wifi, there is available data, all I need and more.

The significant difference is on whom am I depending.  What is my default?  Have I checked it lately?  

Am I looking to God for my strength?  Am I seeking God for His wisdom in this situation?

I am always limited in what I can do.
But God is not.
There is never any lack in Him.

How do I know?  Because the Bible is stock full of people like me, getting to the end of ourselves, realizing our own limitations and learning to depend on God.  Who is my source?  He who is all powerful, the Almighty is His name.

The LORD is my strength and my song.
                    Exodus 3. 15

If any of you lacks wisdom,
let him ask God,
who gives to all men generously
         and without reproaching,
and it will be given him.
                    James 1.5

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Use your words

Our two-year-old grandson is quite verbal, but at times, his communication diminishes to actions and mere noises.  When there is a shift in his behavior or demeanor, he will either tell me what he would like or needs, or he will resort to whining or actions that tell me, like Miss Clavel in the book Madeleine, "something is not right."  With a two-year-old, sometimes it is hard for me to know what is the problem and what is an appropriate solution.  Does he want to play?  Does he need a snack to carry him over to supper? Does he just need a little quiet time in my lap with a stack of books to read outloud?

The dilemma is usually solved by telling him, "Use your words."  That phrase is not so much for my own information as it is for him to identify and realize what the problem is and how to approach it.  Even at that age.  Instead of yelling or crying or throwing toys on the floor, just tell me.  I will help you with it.

God asks the same of us,  "Use your words."

That is why God invented prayer.

"Talk to Me.  Listen for Me.  I will help you with it."

It is not just that God will show me what to do, how to respond, how to navigate this situation, how to pray about it, or even how to pray, but to pray.

Use your words.  Not the scripted words of another person, but the cries of your own heart to a God who loves you more than you can know.

Praying is an ongoing conversation, a deepening relationship.  And through it, God guides my heart not just to what is really the problem, but what is really the opportunity, He realigns my vision to see and identify not just my own troubling need, but a sensitivity and love for those He places on my path everyday and the grace and wisdom to respond. Praying does not just sharpen my awareness of what is around me;  it increases my trust in Him.  I can depend on Him.

"...prayer cannot be fruitless," Andrew Murray wrote in his classic With Christ in the School of Prayer, published in 1895, "its blessing will show itself in our life."

It is not whether or not that God will answer, but how.

"...prayer will never go unblessed," Murray states.

Use your words.

Have no anxiety about anything,
but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
will keep your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.

               Philippians 4. 6-7

teach us to pray...

            Luke 11. 1

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tomorrow's Forecast

Spring comes silently, God's paintbrush transforming our world from a gray and dreary landscape into one that takes our breath away with brilliant color.

But these visible changes are also accompanied by volatile weather.  Crisp mornings turn into warm humid afternoons. Storms appear suddenly, and sometimes violently, shaking up our plans for the day.  We are often caught by the unexpected in this season of life.

What appears on today's horizon?  I need to be ready for anything... and flexible for God's purposes in it, that which I may not be yet aware, that which I may not be able to see yet.

On a recent day as I was driving an unfamiliar route home, a sign in front of a church caught my eye.

"Tomorrow's Forecast:
Our God Reigns."

I chuckled.  I had just been musing over what I needed to do about a particular situation.  God has already gone before me.  He is already in control.  Even tomorrow, our God reigns.

No matter what is ahead, how volatile the situation, how unexpected my path, what the upheaval... or the weather, that is a reality on which I can depend.  A forecast that never changes.  No matter what.

The LORD reigns;
    He is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed,
    He is girded with strength.
Yea, the world is established;
it shall never be moved;
Your throne is established of old;
You are from everlasting.

                      Psalm 93. 1-2

Our God reigns.
Today and tomorrow
     and the rest of your life.
                       Even in this.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I just can't always see it from here

One of my brothers commented last week about a powerful worship service that he had just attended.  "You know, everything stood in the way of us going," he said.  "It would have been much easier to have skipped it. It took a lot to get us there.  But I am so glad we went."

And then he mused, "It always seems like the times it is hardest to go that it is the most significant."

It may not be about a great message or the fellowship of believers.  But it is about what God does in our hearts.  Worshiping God always changes us.

Even when we are not aware of it.

Nearly twenty years ago, I flew to Chicago to attend a close friend's wedding.  I spent the night at my parents' house nearby.  The next morning, I thought about just hanging out with mom and dad, which would have been the most convenient thing to do.  But they were still asleep when I realized that I could still make the early church service.  I didn't really want to go by myself, but the pocket of time was there, and every justification of convenience and comfort was obviously only a cover for complacency.  I grabbed my mom's car keys and headed out.

Because I was a few minutes late, parking was difficult.  By the time I entered the church, the pews were full, and the service had already started.  I found a single seat in one of the back rows of the balcony.

A special speaker replaced the regular pastor that morning.  Because I forgot to pick up a church bulletin, I had no idea who he was.  But within minutes of his reading Luke 14. 25-33, the parable about counting the cost, I scrambled to take notes.  Without a bulletin, I jotted down notes in the margins of my Bible surrounding the passage. And I swam in the words of Jesus, calling us to a life of simplicity, contentment and generosity.  What are my inner attachments?

At the end of the service, I saw a discarded bulletin and realized that I had just heard John Stott, a renowned British theologian, pastor and teacher.  His quiet servant heart profoundly impacted me that morning.

As I drove back to have coffee with my folks, I was so glad I went.  Oh, what I would have missed, I thought.

The notes are still marked in my Bible:   "John Stott 2/18/1996."

Little did I realize when I was in such a completely different season of life, that the notes from that worship service nearly twenty years later would still have a fresh impact on my heart.  I read that Scripture passage this morning.  I absorbed those scribbled notes still in the margin.

Oh, what I would have missed.

Worshiping God
and dwelling in His Word
       changes me
and impacts everyone around me.

It matters.  It matters a lot.

I just can't always
                see it from here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The 11th commandment

One of our daughters at age five was reciting the Ten Commandments in preparation for her Sunday School class.  She counted them down on her fingers as she recited to make sure she remembered each one.  As she neared the end of the list, she hesitated for just a moment, trying to remember these basic instructions for life.

"Thou shalt not..." she stopped for a few moments and thought.  "Thou shalt not..." and quite suddenly it came to her.  Her eyes twinkled.  "Thou shalt afraid."

Oh, sweet young one, who has so much life ahead of you, always remember that.  And me, the one who has carried cumbersome fears for far too long, I need to recite and repeat daily. 

I wrote her words down in ink on the back pages of my Bible.  Just so I would remember them.

And while "thou shalt not be afraid" is not part of the official ten commandments documented in Exodus 20, the entire Scriptures are laden with that same command and with that same encouragement.

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and of good courage;
be not frightened,
neither be dismayed;
for the LORD your God is with you
                           wherever you go.

                 Joshua 1.9

And in the words of Fellowship Memphis pastor John Bryson:  "What would you not be afraid to do if you knew God was in it?"

When I trust God in a scary situation,
                             fear cannot stick to it.

When my backpacking husband goes off on his adventures, each and every item in his pack is absolutely necessary.  Anything more would make the pack too heavy for the trek.  As I go into my own day, into the adventures God has in store, fear is not one of those necessary items.  Fear only gets in the way.  There is no room for it, nor do I have the energy to carry that extra load.  And I find that it is not the actual scary situation that trips me up or brings me down, but fear itself.

What do I miss out on
    because fear weighed me down?

How can I trust God in this?
How differently would I view
          this "ordinary" day,
this difficult relationship,
this uphill path,
this paralyzing decision,
this scary situation,
         if I knew God was in it?

When I get to that fearful point of "I can't,"
I realize that is exactly where God wants me to be,
because He can.

God says, "Look to Me,
I've got you.
No room for fear."

Though the fig tree do not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
     I will rejoice in the LORD,
     I will joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
He makes me tread upon my high places.

                        Habakkuk 3. 17-19

Thou shalt not....
                          be afraid.