Do Not Worry – No, Really, Do Not Worry

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?  

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27

I could be a professional worrier. I used to have an odd believe that crept up on me unawares, I believed that if I worried about something enough, it couldn’t happen.  Odd, I know. When my oldest daughter began driving, I worried about her getting in a wreck because of the roads being bad (Montana ice and snow roads) and I worried that she would drink and drive and I worried that someone else would drink and drive and an accident would occur and on and on. Seemed to be no shortage of things I could worry about regarding her driving. There was something addicting and oddly comforting about worrying. Surely those things couldn’t happen because I worried about them enough.

When her car became airborne and hit a power pole several feet up in the air, none of those reasons were the cause. A neighbor chose to check his mail by parking on the wrong side of the road and when my daughter came around the turn, she saw headlights in what she thought was the other lane. She drove to the right of them, right into a power pole.

My worrying had accomplished nothing. Even in my wildest worrying imaginings, I couldn’t have come up with this scenario. I’d like to say I learned my lesson about worrying, about what a waste of time it is, but alas, I didn’t.  My worrying had no power to prevent anything. Worry only stole from me. Worry stole my peace and my ability to enjoy the present moment. Worry gave me nothing in return.

“When God tells us in the Bible not to worry,

it isn’t a suggestion.  It’s a command.

Worry and/or anxiety is specifically mentioned twenty-five times in the New Testament alone as something we should avoid.”  

Joanna Weaver

Apparently God takes this “Do not worry” command seriously and understands our propensity we humans have towards worrying.

Maybe one antidote to worrying is found in this verse in the question – “are you not much more valuable than they?”

 The more I believe in God’s love for me, the more I can trust in His care for me.  

I am more valuable than the birds in the air and He feeds them. He will feed me.

He watches over them. He will watch over me.

 He created them and designed them to be unique.

 He created me and designed me to be unique.

He hasn’t turned his back on the birds. He won’t turn His back on me.

Heavenly Father, how gracious You are. You know me intimately. You know the minutes, OK the hours, I spend worrying when I could be talking to You. You have proven Your love to me over and over again. Please forgive me for the times I allow worry to preoccupy my mind and my time and my affections. Thank You that my life is in Your hands and You lovingly watch over me and mine.  You are truly  a good God.  Amen.

 

Who’s Job Is It?

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 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin.

You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live.

You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.

We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.

It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.

Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.

He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Saving is all his idea, and all his work.

All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.

It’s God’s gift from start to finish!

We don’t play the major role.

If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

No, we neither make nor save ourselves.

God does both the making and saving.

He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Ephesians 2: 4-7  Message Bible

Left to my own devices, I could be a stagnant mess, a worrier, a control freak, a hyper-vigilant fix-it-all person. One look in the mirror, one honest look tells me that I couldn’t fix myself much less anyone or anything else around me. It’s good to know I don’t have to play the major role in fixing my life or anyone else’s for that matter. Jesus took that role; He saw me when I was a terrible mess and reached out a hand and I have been clinging to that hand ever since. Well, mostly ever since. Ok, actually only when I find myself stumbling and know I can’t get up on my own. In spite of what I know about my failings and His grace, I still let go of His hand way more than I should, thinking I’ve got this when in actuality, I don’t. I never did. I never will. I need His grace every minute of every hour of every day and I am so grateful that His grace is available to me and that He showers it upon me and there is still plenty left over to shower upon you in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve it? Isn’t that awesome?

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Anger Issues

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God said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

Jonah 4:4

Jonah could have made a list of the things he was angry about.  He was a prophet and being asked to do the unthinkable – take God’s grace to the Israelites worst enemy. He was angry that the Ninevites might repent and God would spare them the judgment they had coming. They were ugly, vicious enemies of the Israelites. They were cruel and apparently boasted of their cruelty on their monuments, some of these monuments exists today in museums and here is a partial list of things they boasted about:

“I cut off their heads and formed them into pillars”

“I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins”

“Many within the border of my own land I flayed, and spread their skins upon the walls”

“I cut off the limbs of the officers, the royal officers who had rebelled”

“3,000 captives I burned with fire”

“Their corpses I formed into pillars”

“From son I cut off their hands and their fingers, and from other I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out their eyes”

“I made one pillar of the living, and another of heads, I bound their heads to posts round about the city” *

Many of these atrocities would have been done against the people Jonah lived among.  Oh yes, Jonah had reasons to be angry. But when told to go to Ninevah and warn them to repent or God would destroy them, Jonah said no. The last thing Jonah wanted was for God to forgive these enemies and relent on His plans to destroy them.

I have been there. I can relate to Jonah; been so angry with someone for so long that his salvation no longer mattered to me. Maybe even in my darkest moments of anger I might have wished God’s judgment on him. Oh, in my defense, I didn’t get there overnight; no it took years, as it no doubt did with Jonah.  I can make a list of wrongs done to me that would make anyone angry. I could justify my anger, but that didn’t make it right, at least not in God’s eyes.  Like Jonah, I don’t believe I saw the depth of my anger until God exposed to me my unwillingness to pass on to this person the love, forgiveness, mercy and  compassion that God had so freely given me.  Unlike Jonah, I did repent and while I would like to say it changed the person I was so angry with, it didn’t. It changed me.

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I continually have the choice – wallow in my anger, keep the list of wrongs done to me forever in my remembrance, withhold grace to someone in need, or I can purpose to let the anger go. I’m not saying it is easy, it’s not, but it is a choice – my anger or God’s righteousness. Which would you choose?

 

 

* this from James Montgomery Boice

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Enjoy the Ride!

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I grew up fascinated with horses; I grew up in Houston. The two did not go together too well. No matter how much I pleaded, I just could not have a horse. So my mother did the next best thing. She drove me faithfully, every Saturday morning, 45 minutes one way to Westheimer Stables where I rented a horse for one hour.  Every week it was the same, the horse plodded away from the barn at a rate that would make a sloth jealous.  No matter how much prodding I did,  no matter how hard I kicked, I could never get them to break into a trot leaving the barn. I took, what seemed to me , like forever to get anywhere.  Every week, I hoped, this would be the Saturday I was successful in getting the horse to go even a little bit faster. Every week, I failed. Returning to the barn,  however, was totally different. What took 50 minutes to cover at a walk, now took 10 to cover at a gallop.  No matter how hard I tried, I could never get them to do anything less than all out gallop. I grew to love that part. It only lasted a few minutes but it was the highlight of my week (once I got over being scared).

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder about what seems so obvious now. Why spend so much time trying to change something I couldn’t change? Why not instead, sit back and relax and enjoy the slow, seemingly tedious walk away from the stables. If I had, maybe that part of the ride wouldn’t seem so frustrating.  Maybe with a little practice, I would have noticed enjoyable things along the way  – the sun on my face, the rhythm of the horse, the wonderful sound of hooves on the ground.  Who knows what wonders I missed? Those rides took place nearly 45 years ago and yet, I can remember them like they were yesterday. I remember thinking that if I did something different this week, the horse would respond better. And when every attempt of mine failed, I remember thinking that it was my fault. Weird, right? I mean these are rental horses who do this daily over and over and over again like robots. But I wanted my ride to be different and when it wasn’t I felt like I failed.

That theme replays over and over again in my life – trying to change what isn’t mine to change and letting the failure of those attempts lessen my belief in me. If there is a lesson in the rental horses, it should be just this – if I truly employed the message of the Serenity prayer, I could sit back and enjoy the ride cherishing the parts I like without letting the parts I don’t like steal too much from me.  I can only change what is within my power to change and rest in the fact that God can take care of the remainders.  And prayerfully, with God’s grace, it won’t take me 45 years to know the difference.

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4 Boxes of Ex-Lax

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The manager of a store is interviewing a young man who has applied for a sales position. The young man has no sales experience and the manager is concerned. He stresses over and over again the importance of selling something. The young man assures him that he can make sales and he is hired. Three days go by and not one single sale. The manager is getting frustrated and reminds the new employee that he has to sell something to keep his job. The young man assures him that tomorrow he will sell something.

A customer comes in the next day, coughing a lot and clearly not feeling too well and the new employee sells him 4 boxes of Ex-Lax. He is pretty proud of himself so he tells his boss who rightfully questions him – “why on earth, would you sell someone with a really bad cough 4 boxes of Ex-Lax?”

“Well”, the new employee says, “he will think twice about coughing now”.

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Ever feel like you’ve been sold a bill of goods? That what was supposed to bring relief only made things worse? If I be honest here, I would have to admit that there have been times in my following Jesus life that I questioned if I had bought a bill of goods. I’m sure that has never happened to you but I am just saying that there was a time when the grief and criticisms I got from being a Christ follower seemed greater than the sum total of the good I got from being one.

I went to church, I regularly read my Bible, I prayed, I went to Bible studies, I even led Bible studies, but at the end of the day, I was still me. Bottled up, pent up, filled with anger, lacking in joy, finding a hard time keeping hope alive. I expected the Christian walk to change my life and make it good. No not good, great.

And it didn’t.

Like the man in this joke, I was trying to treat the symptoms the wrong way. I was trying to be a good Christian. Nothing wrong with that except this: it’s not my job. It’s not my job to make myself be a good Christian. I can do all the right things and still be miserable ol’ me because I am the one doing it. I can’t make myself be a good Christian any more than Ex-Lax can stop that man’s cough. When I learned surrender, which only came after NOTHING I did worked,  only after giving up and letting go, I began to see myself change. I can’t be a good Christ follower, I can only follow Christ. And only as He helps me, can I even do that well. Or at all.

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I have learned the hard way that there is an easier way. I wish there had been an easier way to learn it!

Have you ever experienced that kind of doubt?

Do you find it easy to surrender?

I would love to hear from you, Diane

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The End From The Beginning

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I make known the end from the beginning…

Isaiah 46:10

I breed dogs. People that are considering adopting a puppy ask the same questions – what about genetic testing?  What kind of health guarantee do you offer? What if they get this disease or that one?  What they are looking for are reassurances that this puppy won’t become a financial or emotional burden to them over the next 15 years. I do the best I can to weed out these possibilities but I can’t really guarantee that no disease will befall their dog; I can’t see the end from the beginning.

But this verse in Isaiah tells us that God does. He knows how things will play out; there are no surprise endings for Him.

If we possessed that power, how much easier would major decisions become – do I marry this person, is this the right time to have a child, should I leave this job, start this business, should I have this surgery, etc.  But we don’t have that power; we can’t see the end from the beginning.

This makes me marvel all the more about God. On the day, some thirty years ago, when I asked Jesus to come into my life and into my heart, I didn’t know what I was getting into. But He did. He knew the times my love for Him would burn passionately and the times it would only smolder. He knew that my affections towards Him would wax and wane. He knew the times I would be so angry at Him that I couldn’t talk to Him for days and weeks and even months.  He knew the times I would grieve His Holy Spirit, the times I would hurt another child of His, the times I would hurt myself, and yet, He came in. He willingly entered into a relationship with me knowing He would be hurt, neglected and misunderstood. 

I don’t understand that kind of love. I marvel at that. He knew me, not just the now me, but the all the way into the future me, the past me, the me you don’t get to see, the me I’d rather not see and still He said yes at my invitation.

Jesus, I am humbled at the thought of Your response to my invitation. Knowing what You know about me, you still chose to come and live in me. What can I say to a love like that? Thank You, thank You, thank You  and please, please, please help me to be a place where You are pleased to dwell. Help me to be a habitation fit for a King, a Saviour or the very best friend a person could ever ask for. Thank You for loving me in spite of my unworthiness. Amen.

When God Says No

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Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 

II Corinthians 12:8

 Don’t we all just hate that word – “NO”.  It doesn’t matter the request, how reasonable, how mature or immature,  how ridiculous or necessary the request seems to be, no is just not the answer we want.  For reasons I may never know, I believe I have asked enough, I have prayed enough and healing doesn’t seem to be something that God is saying yes to, at least not right now, for me.

Whatever the thorn in Paul’s side was (and there are many possible explanations for it), Paul asked three times and the answer came back “No”.  So Paul moved on.  Our pastor did a beautiful sermon on this and he commented that these three times were just three asks, but three seasons of asking. And still the answer was no. And Paul did what I am trying now to do, move on, accept that this is what it is, until it isn’t, and rely on God’s grace to move on in spite of the pain.

When the pain first hit over five years ago, I met it with denial. Every night I went to bed believing that tomorrow I would be better; this is a pulled muscle, a cramp, I slept wrong, whatever, but it would be gone – tomorrow. That Scarlet O’Hara mentality never did serve me well.  When it became apparent that it wasn’t a temporary thing, I moved into the anger phase of grieving. I yelled, I cried, I pulled away from God, I threw fits. This didn’t serve me very well either. Then came bargaining – if I confess enough scriptures on healing, pray enough, have enough people lay hands on me, be anointed with oil enough, eat the right supplements, do enough juicing, rebounding, detoxing, cleanses etc., I will be healed. While those things did serve me better, they didn’t get me healed.

So my pastor comes along and says sometimes, we just need to accept that it is what it is. First time I heard someone say those words to me, I wanted to kick them in the shins. But this day, I heard those words with grace and compassion and I knew that it was time for me to accept that this is what it is. For days, I couldn’t stop the tears. Then for days, I could stop the tears, but I couldn’t talk to anyone for fear of tears starting again. Then the tears were finished and the emotional pain of being told no began to heal and I am moving on.

I still believe in diving healing, I still believe God’s desire and will is to heal and that He has the power to do so. But I know from being a parent that sometimes, the hardest answer I can tell my child is “no”. And sometimes for reasons that they may never understand, sometimes “no” is the answer that serves them best at this moment in their life, which doesn’t mean no forever.

Jesus, You know how I am struggling to accept this. I want to, I need to, You have led me to this point and I want to be willing and obey. But I also want to be healed, three or five years ago. Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done. Help me to focus on You and the good things in my life that don’t always scream as loudly as the pain and grant me the grace to truly move on. I ask in Your gracious name, amen.

 

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Small Potatoes!?!?!?!

So we’re not giving up. How could we!

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us,

on the inside,

where God is making new life,

not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times,

the lavish celebration prepared for us.

There’s far more here than meets the eye.

The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.

But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 

II Corinthians 4:17

I believe Paul is talking about persecution here which is not the same as the hard times we have been going through lately (cancer in two family members) but this I am sure of: hard times are hard times. And there seems to be no shortage of hard times. It’s easy when going through hard times to isolate and turn our thoughts inward and think that no one understands, no one “gets it”, and I am all alone. Some times, it is true, that no one “gets it” and we are alone.  Sometimes, it is all too tempting to just surrender, give up, give in.

Paul calls hard times small potatoes compared to what’s coming in the future – heaven. I have to admit, that seldom does that give me much comfort, I mean, heaven seems so far away and so unimaginable, and well, I still have to get through today. How do the coming good times help with that?

I think the answer lies in this that Paul wrote  – “not a day goes by without his unfolding grace”. Not one day, not even a moment of one day goes by without His unfolding, unlimited, unimaginable, undeserved grace unfolding in my life, in your life. That daily grace gives me hope. That daily grace helps me keep my eyes on a future hope but also helps me to see the bright shining moments of grace that light my day even in the midst of hard times.

The laughter of a child, the embrace of a friend, the meal cooked and delivered by well-wishers, the dog that never grows tired of sitting by my side, the refreshing breeze on a hot summer day, a word of encouragement at just the right time, a good night’s sleep.  All small graces that point the way to a future unimaginable grace. Small graces that help the hard times lose just a little of their overwhelming power.

Thank You Jesus, for opening my eyes to see the small graces You have provided. Thank You for what they tell me of Your great grace, Your overwhelming, undeserved grace that is unfolding on me daily. When I grumble and complain and feel sorry for myself, would You please send a reminder that my life is surrounded by Your grace and this hard time is just a season; it will pass, but Your grace will remain.  Your grace is sufficient for me and I am grateful. Amen.

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Give Us This Day…

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Give us this day our daily bread.

Matthew 6:11

Jesus teaches us how to pray in what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. One sentence reads “Give us this day our daily bread.” I don’t know about you, but I have never really had to concern myself with getting my daily bread. I may not have been able to eat whatever I wanted, but there has always been food. I tend to take that for granted. Jesus teaches us to ask for what we have need of this day. Not what we may need tomorrow, but what we have need of today. I tend to think that while that includes the nourishment for our bodies it probably includes everything else I may have need of today.

That has transformed my thinking recently. When family members were diagnosed with cancer and our new normal was frightening and terribly unknown, it was hard to even think about, much less verbalize, what our needs were, but Jesus knew. And yet, He says, we need to ask. There is something very humbling about that. There is something about that that makes me look deeper and be more honest about my need.

In trying to put that into practice, I would consider in the morning, before getting out of bed, just what was the daily bread I had need of for this day. That meant laying aside my concerns for a week from now when Bruce was to have surgery, or 6 weeks from now when radiation begins or how will we pay the bills that are coming and my concerns about my daughter’s diagnosis and upcoming surgery and on and on and on. It meant taking one day at a time and asking for just that day. Simply asking for the daily bread I have need of for just this day.

I have found that my need list has grown shorter in spite of the increased demands placed on our resources of time, energy, and money.

Today what I have need of is strength to keep going.

Today what I can most use is grace to not allow this to be about me.

Today, I do need bread, I need gas, I need a tiny bit of time to myself.

Today, I need to be reminded of Your presence, Lord.

Most of all Lord, today I need to be reminded that  You have promised to meet my needs for today and You have taught me to ask for them.

And so I ask, that You would give to me this day, my daily bread.

And I will leave my tomorrow til tomorrow.

Jesus, thank You for teaching me how to pray. Thank You for showing me that You are concerned with the daily things that make up my life; things I might have considered too small to bother You with, except that You said to ask. Thank You for showing me through this season that You provide for my daily needs and that You also give grace to help me let go of tomorrow, knowing that when it gets here, I can, once again, ask for my daily bread and You will hear and respond. You have been so gracious to us through this time and so faithfully providing our daily bread. I am grateful. Amen.

 

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Snow Day

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Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 

Psalm 51:7

I am homebound today for the third day in a row. Snow has closed schools and many business here in the Pacific Northwest.  The snow has covered everything, blanketing the good, the bad and the ugly in white. Clean and vibrant white. It is beautiful. I lived in Montana for 25 winters and took snow like this for granted or at times, wished it away.  I remember a scene, though, that stands out in my mind.

Our neighbor had several acres of land and he was fond of vehicles. Broken, rusted, old, new vehicles (trucks, cars, farm equipment) and just pieces of vehicles. Actually, I don’t know that he was fond of them, only that he collected them. His yard and pasture were a veritable junkyard. We didn’t have neighborhood associations then (probably still don’t in that part of Montana) so his treasures could accumulate to his heart’s desire.  Ugly is an understatement and I passed it every time I went to town, took kids to school or came home – there it was in plain sight –  the neighborhood junkyard. Until it snowed.

Snow transformed the junkyard into a glistening, sparkling exquisite collection of sculptures. I would be in awe of the transformation as I drove by. I was surrounded by beautiful snow-covered nature scenes – mountains, trees, and creeks, but this scene seemed the most remarkable simply because of the transformation. Mountains are always beautiful as are trees and creeks, but a junkyard, well, not so much. Until the snow made it a work of art.

I imagine my heart something like this junkyard before I accepted God’s freely offered forgiveness for my sins.  A collection of junk that could only be described as ugly. A collection I would rather no one saw, including me. After accepting His forgiveness, I see my heart more like the snow-covered sculpture I marveled at in Montana. What a transformation!  How awesome to think that my sins have been forgiven, I have been cleansed and now my heart is whiter than snow. Not because I am sinless, but because my sins have been wiped clean. I have a clean and vibrant white slate for a heart and much like the junkyard that was transformed into a thing of beauty, God transformed my heart into a work of art He could gaze upon. He doesn’t have to turn away from seeing my heart because He freely cleansed it for me. He washed it whiter than snow!

What an amazing gift forgiveness is, so totally undeserved. I am so grateful that You saw my ugly, junkyard condition and chose to free me from it. Not just by covering it with snow, but by cleansing me and wiping away my sin from before Your eyes. I need that washing daily. Thank You for forgiving me, for loving me in spite of my sins and wanting to gaze upon me with love and acceptance. Thank You for the blanket of snow You keep me covered in.  Amen.

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