Monday, December 19, 2011

Watch Your Attitude

Star ornament that was a gift from my grandparents  when I was a wee little thing.  
I am a bundle of emotions as I begin this week leading up to Christmas.  Yesterday was a wonderful day of worship, Bible teaching, music, and friends.  I ended my weekend light-hearted and filled with peace and joy.  This morning as I think about what I need to do to get ready for our family Christmas tomorrow a sense of melancholy descends.

I love history.  Perhaps that is why I tend to spend time dwelling on my own, especially at this time of year. But it is just that "dwelling on" that makes me a bit blue.  All around me are remembrances of Christmases past.  

The Santa that always sat under my family's Christmas tree when I was growing up and continues that tradition  in my home, surrounded by bears that were gifts from my brother who is now home with the Lord.

 Remembrances of those I have loved so deeply who are no longer with me.  Thoughts about how my life is changing as my little boys have grown up.  Our own Christmases are starting to look very different as we have to start sharing our sons with others.  Realizing that next year will change it all even more as one son looks towards moving to another state.  So many good memories.  But life marches on.
Stocking I made for my dad one Christmas- it serves to remind me now of days spent on his lap in his big old recliner in the living room by the fire.

Stocking I made for my mom one Christmas-  brings back sweet memories of times spent with her baking cookies.

I have a prayer notebook that I write in as I do my quiet times.  The very last section is labeled "Listen."  After my time of purposefully praising, confessing,  requesting, and thanking God, I try to quiet my mind and then write down whatever thought/s come to mind.  This morning the first thing I wrote down almost immediately upon turning to this section of my notebook was, "Watch your attitude."  It is not even lunch time yet and I can say that I believe this was indeed a warning from the Lord for me today.

I live in a house where the university schedule is our way of life and today marks the first day of Christmas break.  My husband turned in his grades this morning.  The house no longer belongs just to me during the days. One forgets at this stage in life how difficult it can be to fit in any kind of quiet time.  I am no longer used to the distractions.  Sitting at the kitchen enjoying my much needed time with the Lord I am asked by one if I would like to go for a little walk around the yard with he the dogs.  Later I am interrupted by one who needs to know how to hard boil eggs.  Soon I find myself dealing with timers going off and a forgotten pan of eggs that needs to be dealt with.  (I've not made it to my "listen" section yet.)
Sitting at the computer trying to get my thoughts in writing I am approached about the need to head to the post office to get a package in the mail.  I was not a particularly happy camper about doing it right then.  It was not until we were on the way home from said post office that the line I wrote in my notebook popped into my head, "watch your attitude" and I thought to myself, "Lord, you know me so well.  You knew the frustrations I would face today and even before they came You were already encouraging me to better handle them than I have in the past."  He knew, especially with my melancholy mood, how important it is going to be for me today to watch my attitude.

As I posted the photo I took of the star ornament at the top of this post, my mind went back to a surprise that awaited me in Numbers this morning.  "I see him, but not now;  I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel." (Numbers 24:17, NASB)  And I remembered an earlier musing of mine: A Different Focus This Advent.  I love that Christmas is a celebration of the fulfillment of God's promise to us to send a Savior.  To send His Son that we might have life and have it abundantly.  I love that it also reminds me that He is faithful to do all that He said He would do-- and the story is not over yet.  And it strikes me as I write this that my attitude adjustment applies to my Christmas celebrations too.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together..

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Configuring Upgrades

I opened up my laptop to begin writing this morning and was greeted with "Shutting Down," followed by "logging off."  Then it took over an hour for it to configure the upgrades.  Strange, I felt the same way this morning.  I had my quiet time because that is what I do, but it took me a while to get started with it, and then it just felt like I was going through the motions.  I opened my Bible and prayed, "Lord, I really need You to speak to me today.  I am so downhearted.  I need something, on this morning of all mornings."
Nothing caught my attention.  Nothing got written down on the pages in my prayer journal devoted to "New Testament," "Psalms," or "Proverbs."  I moved on to the section in my journal for Praise and I did write quite a bit there.  I praised the God who loves me unconditionally, I praised the God of new beginnings.  I praised the One who is my Rock, my Shelter, my Comforter, my Counselor, my Friend, My King.  I praised the One who is faithful and true.  Then I poured out my heart and sought His guidance.  My heart still aches, but there is hope as I trust my heart to the One who loves me so supremely.

What would have happened if I had shut down with God this morning?  What if I had "logged off" and not spent time with Him?  I would be curled up somewhere alone and in tears.  I would be beating myself up and thinking all kinds of unholy thoughts.  I needed some upgrading this morning.  And it sometimes takes time, and I sometimes get inpatient with the process.  The computer kept telling me not to turn it off while it was configuring those upgrades and I was sorely tempted.  But while I waited God had more to say to me as I thought over the words I read in Scripture and the way I am feeling today.

I did write down verses from my Old Testament reading.  Not because they struck me in any particular way, but because the S.O.A.P. method requires it.  From Numbers 14:20-23 I have a couple of thoughts.  The first being the importance of intercessory prayer.  God pardoned the people of Israel according to Moses' word.  Yesterday I wrote about Moses pleading for God to forgive the people based on God's character.  It would seem his prayer carried some weight.  I don't think God needed any reminding about who He is and what He is like.  I do think it was important for Moses to act as an intercessor for the people.  And I believe his prayer was answered because He understood the heart of God and prayed accordingly.  Which leads me to my second thought.  Over the years I have come to see my quiet time as less about me convincing God to see things my way and more about me learning to see things through His eyes; because the more time I spend with Him in these quiet moments the better I get to know Him.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now That's Grace

Today I move to the section in Numbers where Moses pleads with the LORD to forgive His people.  The LORD has just told Moses He is going to dispossess this people who refuse to believe in Him, and Moses begins to pray.  The whole context is that the LORD should forgive them not because of who they are; not because of anything they have done, but because of who He is:  slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression.  Moses then prays, "Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You have also forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."  GRACE.  I sit here with great hope and joy in my heart because of grace- and it continually amazes me.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Have No Fear

Have no fear.  That is so much easier to say than to live out.  I am by nature a very fearful person; not to be confused with a person to fear.  All of my life I have struggled with issues related to shyness, fear of all sorts of things being very much a part of that.  Today I am very convicted about how those fears have interfered with my obedience to the Lord.

This morning I read the section in Numbers where Caleb and Joshua have their say with the people of Israel  (Numbers 14:6-9),  "Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land....the LORD is with us, do not fear them." (verse 9, in part)

I have come a long way from the young girl who would become physically ill at the mere thought of being called on by her teachers.  I have such a fear of failure, of looking foolish, that it has at times crippled me as a servant of the King.  What comes so easily in writing is a struggle if I have to actually talk to someone.  In comparison to the men of Israel my fears seem so silly.  I am not going into battle with mighty men of great stature.  The giants I face are in my mind.  But for me they are huge, and each day I trust in the Lord and go out to face those giants is a great victory.  Sometimes it comes in the form of speaking up at Bible study instead of whispering my thoughts to my husband and hoping he does it for me, or worse yet, remaining quiet when I feel the Spirit prodding me.  Sometimes it comes in the form of agreeing to be a part of ministries that mean I need to meet new people and engage them in conversation.  Sometimes it even means getting up in front of people and speaking to a crowd.  Mainly it means that my love for the Lord is greater than my love for myself; that I am willing to face my fears because I do not want to let Him down.

Looking back over my life I can see how the Lord has been at work all this time slaying those giants I fear and has been helping me not to succumb to those fears as often as I used to.  My knees still knock and my stomach still churns at times; so I cling to verses like the one in my reading today, "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the LORD means safety." (Proverbs 29:25, NLT)  I do not know what giants you face each day, but I pray we both find strength in the Lord to "fear not."

Grace and Peace,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Surprised by Joy

Why am I surprised when God does amazing things?  A family at church has been in a battle with cancer since their young son was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ago.  Friday they were back for surgery to remove a second tumor.  Prayer warriors all over the world are praying for this family.  Yet when Rex's mom posted that her son was being discharged from the hospital on Sunday; when his dad wrote about the doctor seeing Rex walking the halls Sunday morning, experiencing absolutely no complications from brain surgery that had taken place less than 48 hours previously; my reaction was, "WOW!"  I was surprised.  And I was immediately convicted.  Hadn't I been praying all week for God to do a mighty work?  Surprised by Joy could be the title of a book about my life too.

As I read Numbers 13:26-28, 31 I was reminded once again to trust the Lord to do amazing things.  A group of men returns to Moses and the rest of the people of Israel with their report on the Promised Land.  Yes, everything about it is awesome.  They even bring back some of its produce to prove what a great land it is.  But there is this problem that leaves them terrified.  Giants in the land.  "We are not able to go up against this people, for they are too strong for us," they report.  I do not have very many brave bones in my body.  There are things out there that terrify me.  I am not able to go up against them.  They are too strong for me.  All true statements.  Equally true:  God is bigger and stronger than any of them.

I have got to remember Whose I am.

I came to Revelation 3 in the rest of my daily Bible reading. To the church in Philadelphia He says, "This is the message from the One who is holy and true, the One who has the key of David.  What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.  I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.  You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me. (Rev. 3:7-8, NLT- emphasis mine)

The Lord knows how weak I am.  It does not matter.  What matters is my obedience, and I believe that part of obedience is trusting Him because He has said He is trustworthy.  My life is in His hands.  Whatever terrors are out there for me; my God is bigger.  Sometimes He opens a door, I take a peak, see that everything looks beautiful, and walzt right through it.  Sometimes when I take a peak it does not look so inviting and I hesitate to enter; sometimes I have a choice to back away, while other times I am thrust through kicking and screaming.  My prayer this morning is that I will not be afraid to go through any door that God opens, trusting Him with my life, knowing that He is able to handle anything that is beyond that open door.  And maybe someday I will not be surprised by joy, but totally expectant because of Whose I am.

Grace and Peace,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.

                         Linking today with Shanda at A Pause on the Path for:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wherever He leads

My kitchen is a disaster this morning.  I spent the afternoon baking several dozen sugar cookies to be decorated at a Christmas party the science club at HSU is hosting this afternoon.  Then our kids all descended about 9pm with the makings for gingerbread houses so we sat around the table and had a great time together.  It became clear that some of us have a little more patience and artistic talent than others.
My beloved husband Ken, perhaps this is not his talent.

That's better.
Our two sons: Jeff and Matthew

Jeff and his sweet lady, Samantha
Hmmmm, I don't know where the boys get it from?
 Having my family around makes me feel content.  When I read the final section of Numbers this week I began to think about contentment.  Numbers 9:15-19 speaks about the cloud that covered the tabernacle by day and the appearance of fire by night.  Whenever the cloud lifted the whole congregation of Israel would set out until they reached the place where the cloud settled down again.  There the people would remain until the Lord directed them to move on, whether it be for a few days, a month, or a year. (from verse 22 further in the chapter.)
I don't have the benefit of a cloud guiding me to where I am to "camp."  But God has clearly led me to several different locations over the years.  I am such an Oregon girl.  Never dreaming that one day the Lord would lead me away.  My husband is a bit of a wanderer and by his side I have learned a lot about being content wherever I am.  I confess, though, I have a lot of learning yet to do.  I was content when we moved to eastern Washington for grad school, it was still close to "home."  I was a bit of a grumbler when we moved to Michigan for his first teaching assignment.  There was absolutely nothing familiar, and I was sooooo far from home.  Over the years of our stay there I grew more content and it began to feel like home.    But another move loomed on the horizon.  This time to Colorado.  Can you imagine someone dragging their feet about the opportunity to live in that beautiful state?  I remember how my heart sank when we pulled in to Grand Junction.  This was not the Colorado of my dreams, but high desert.  Where were the forests?!  Eventually I fell in love with our new setting, but again there was a lot of grumbling along the way.
I can't believe it has now been just over six years since we made our move to Texas.  This was the hardest for me.  The nearest forests are a day's drive.  My extended family is now further away.  It's brutally hot in the summer, which can begin sometime in the spring.  This is NOT the place for me.
Oh, but it is.  This is exactly where the Lord wants me.  Once again I am learning to be content, and I can even honestly say I love being here now, well, most of the time.  But it is not the place, the trees, the climate that make me content. It has always been about the people.  Wherever I have gone I have fallen in love with the people.  And folks, the people in Texas are the cream of the crop.  I love how they "love on you."
What is becoming clear to me is that it is not in things or places that I find contentment.  The way I feel when my kids and husband are around, that total contentment that comes with being surrounded by them; my heart needs relationships.  The one relationship that should make my heart completely content is the one I have with the Lord.  It should not matter to me where He moves us on this planet.  It should not matter how long He causes us to linger here.  Lately I have been dreaming of Oregon again.  Longing to be back where so many of my favorite places are.  It's the time of year.  I miss the big family celebrations.  I miss my family, as cancer and Alzheimer's have taken their toll.  It makes it hard to be content.  I think that is why this section of Numbers, that really has nothing to do with contentment, speaks to me as it does.  The Lord is reminding me of Whose I am.  He is reminding me that His plan for me is perfect.  He is reminding me to rest in Him and be content. He knows my heart and He's got this too.

Woofie congratulating Matthew on a job well done.
Ta Da!

Grace and Peace,

God Will Make A Way

 I enjoyed the final morning of my winter wonderland yesterday.  When I got back from my afternoon commitments the snow was gone except for the north side of the house.
The view from my front porch

Yesterday my study of the book of Numbers took me to verses 9-11a of chapter 9.  Looking over my notebook this morning I want to share that these verses spoke to me about the character of God.  He is the God who hears us.  When we come to Him with our questions He has the answers we need.  I have been guilty of sometimes seeing God as unmovable, legalistic in nature.  But here were men who honestly wanted to obey and worship but they could not with the current prescribed code.  God heard the pleas of their hearts through Moses and He answered and made a way for them to worship that did not lessen what He required of them, but gave them the opportunity they needed to follow in obedience.  It made me think of that verse in 2 Peter 3:9, which basically says the Lord does not desire that any should perish but all come to repentance.  God will make a way where there seems to be no way.  He did it then and He continues to do it today.

The Light of the World came to pour out His Blood, giving us new life, and making us whiter than snow.   I am reminded of each as I look at the photo I took this week after decorating our fence- the lights (the Light), the red ribbons (His blood), the greenery  (new life), the snow...

God made a way the night of Jesus birth!

Grace and Peace,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wait and Listen to the Lord

Brown Thrasher puffed up in the cold

Spotted Towhee-
I just happened to look
out the window at the right time
This morning I am distracted by all the birds coming to feast on this cold morning outside my window.  Especially distracting since two of them were newcomers.  One stuck around for quite a while while the other hardly gave me a chance to snap a hasty photo.

Oddly, it made me think about my Bible reading for today.  In the next four verses from Numbers chapter 9 the people have observed the Passover as the LORD commanded.  However there was a group that came to Moses who were unclean because of a death and were unable to observe Passover on that day and they wanted to know why they were restrained from making an offering to the Lord on the appointed day.  Moses told them to wait while he listened to what the LORD would command concerning them.  (Now I have not gotten to the answer yet in my reading, though I have read this passage many times before and know what is coming, but I am trying to approach it fresh.)  I was struck by Moses' response.  He did not dismiss them or ignore their desire to please the Lord even though outside of what had been prescribed.  He went and sought the Lord's will on the matter.  It strikes me because Moses did not limit God to what he already understood.  It strikes me because Moses recognized that the Lord just might make some room for people who do not fit in with the rest- who couldn't meet the standard of cleanliness prescribed by God.  It strikes me because Moses was willing to wait and listen to what God had to say on the matter.
It made me wonder if we sometimes chase people away because we are not very good at accepting those who do not fit into our mold- those who have a desire to worship and serve but want to go about it a slightly different way.  Do we respond like Moses to them, seeking the Lord's direction even if it might fly in the face of our conventions?  Are we willing to make changes to meet the needs of others?
Oh, that last question has much more personal application for me.  I have my way of doing things.  I have my preferred schedule for what my day looks like.  Am I willing to make room for people who need the Lord but mess up my day?
Like those birds, sometimes what I have to offer leads people to stay and sometimes I cannot meet the needs and they need to go elsewhere.  But may they never leave because I refuse to consider that the Lord might have something new for me to see.  Perhaps they have come my way because I need a fresh perspective.

Goldfinch-very bold fella that allows me to get close to the window

Plenty of Goldfinches in the winter here

Love getting winter shots of Cardinals

Chickadee- comes mainly for the sunflower seed and flits in and out,
not one to linger long for a photo.

House Finch

Blue Jay- kind of shy and only comes close when the pear tree is no longer producing.

Another Goldfinch

Surprised that a Mockingbird is hanging around
- seems to like the lantana that has gone to seed under my window

Junco- always visits whenever the snow flies

Grace and Peace,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It Helps to Have Friends on This Journey

Today did not get started like every other day.  I think I am one of the few people in Texas who has been asking the Lord to send snow.  This morning our world was blanketed in white.

 I was out with my camera as soon as the sun started to come up and was reluctant to come in and get to my quiet time.  So I posted my photos on Facebook and joined in a few conversations there.   One of my friends has decided to seek out others who would be like-minded in doing a Couch to 5k training plan, and after some thought I decided I was ready to join in.  I started this process last year but did not make my goal so I am hoping that with the encouragement and accountability of friends this time around will be a success.

That is one of my goals with my blogging.  That through my commitment to share with you what I am getting out of my quiet times you will in turn be encouraged to spend time with the Lord, and maybe in the process we will be able to encourage one another and have some accountability.

This week my study takes me to Numbers chapter 9.  In the first four verses this morning my observations were that Moses received a word from the LORD about observing Passover and in turn shared that word with the people of Israel.  I took it as an encouragement that what the Lord reveals to my heart as I spend time with Him in the Scriptures I should in turn share with others.  He may even be encouraging me to see it as my responsibility, but that takes it to a level I am not comfortable with just yet.

Having finished my quiet time and taken care of some other Monday responsibilities I cleaned up the clutter that was in the way and opened up my treadmill to get started on the training program.  Stepping on  my eyes were drawn out the window to the icicles now forming and I quickly jumped off, grabbed my camera and headed out again.  After a few more photos to capture the day I returned and completed Day 1 on my treadmill.  Whew! and WooHoo!  
I think my legs might do some talking to me tomorrow but it felt good to add some physical activity back into my day.   I hope that you too will be encouraged to flex your spiritual as well as physical muscles today.  Let me know how it goes.

And now I am heading back out to enjoy the snow as my two German Shepherds have had enough of this sitting inside on a day like today.  I think they were even more excited than I was this morning.

Grace and Peace,

 I would love to hear about your own journeys. Feel free to share what God is teaching you, as well as your thoughts on my musings. May we grow in wisdom and understanding together.