Warm Wednesday Words: Christmas Letter: Still Alive…Still Trusting

christmas letter templateUnless you count this as one, we won’t be writing a Christmas letter this year.  Come to think of it, it’s been a number of years since I sent a Christmas letter.  But if we did you might be hanging onto your seat.   Then again, in the off paragraphs you might be snoring.  But ultimately what I would want you to know is this:  Even in the hard years, God is good and does exceedingly above all that we ask or think. (Eph. 3:20)  He is to be praised.

Imagine getting a Christmas letter saying that in a fit of jealous rage one of two sons had killed the other, and in another family letter came the news that the husband had risked his wife’s sexual exploitation for his own hide; then a few years later the same wife had gotten so jealous of a relationship that she, herself, had put into place, that she had sent the destitute progeny away forever.  What if your friends wrote you that one child had tricked the near blind, dying father into changing his will.  Now here’s some Christmas letter news: the dad had suffered some devastating consequences in his life for a rooftop peeping tom escapade, and later there were some problems in the blending of the half siblings.  One had raped his half sister and in revenge another had murdered the rapist.  And then later the disowned teen murderer  used his charisma and become popular and powerful enough to try to destroy his father.

Likely responses to such tabloid-like stories from God-fearing families might be shock, gossip and judgement.  The latter springs from our insatiable desire to measure someone’s tragedy against our own life and surmise how that could never happen to us. Thoughts, if not words, might be…”if the parents had just had them in church every Sunday” to “if they had not chosen that school” to “if they had not been so strict”, or “if they had not been so lenient”, or “if they had just went to marriage counseling” and on and on.  We believe in grace, but it often shadows our prideful logic.  The disciples tried to lay blame as well, but received this response…”Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) The works of God in a life are really so much more refreshing to focus on!  If we could just quickly shift our thoughts to how God may use circumstances, as well as start praying we’d become a part of the miracle of grace, redemption and restoration.

In the above scenarios, God dealt with sin, but saw the heart, (yes, especially the parts that bore His likeness) which is why He could call the fearful husband the father of many nations, the jealous wife a woman to be emulated by all women in regard to respect for her husband, the #1 loser dad a man after God’s own heart in regard to his worshipful and compassionate heart, etc.

Unfortunately, God’s grace and redemption are sometimes not as convincing in humans, and on occasion even purposely omitted, leaving many of us trudging uphill through the storms of life with social apathy (not to be confused with spiritual apathy) as our trail guide.  A friend of ours and midwife for two of our childbirths years ago, blogged recently on  Christmas letters.  “The fact of the matter is, any time any of us have a bad year, we aren’t as likely to send out Christmas cards or a Christmas letter.  If we’ve experienced a death in the family, struggled financially, had medical issues, serious kid problems, emotional trauma, a divorce, church drama, or just a year where everything seemed to go wrong, we don’t really feel like sharing.  Those things don’t go as well in the end of year brag letter as do educational accomplishments, travel, promotions and awards.”  You’ll likely be blessed and entertained if you take time to read her entire post @ the above link.  You might even change the way you write next year’s Christmas card or letter.

But meantime, if you didn’t hear much from us, neither did most.  Like Roxanne and many of you, we’re still here, still alive, still trusting, hoping, and finding healing in the time out.

 

 

 

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Warm Wednesday Words: Consciously Dependent

Hope from God alone

Today I contemplate Who I am dependent on, not what I’m dependent on Him to make me or do for me.  He can change that as often as the wind shifts direction if He chooses.  And it’s not my business to hole up at any given “stop” and sing the praises of how used of Him I may be in that stage.  Nothing’s more boring and uncomfortable then hearing someone sing the arrogant praises of their usefulness to God, which can be a lengthy delusion.

arroganceTo truly take stock of His leading and “nudging”, especially in retrospect, can bring me to stark realizations of my failure to follow.  I become keenly aware of His gentle tugs and my reasoning to the contrary.  Of course, if I haven’t spent much time in prayer, meditation and Bible study, then I’m not as likely to have experienced His personal comfort, exhortations, nudging, and yes, even discipline.

Lean not on your own understanding

But once the soul searching has commenced, I fasten my eyes on Him and take a deep breath before “marching on”.  It doesn’t matter what others judgement of my walk is (within the guidelines of the Word).  “Theirs” is to take stock of His leading, which may be very different then mine.  “Mine” is to take His personal instructions and proceed, keeping my eyes on Him, without heed for the judgment, which some are sure to issue, and without indulging in judging or bitterness myself.  “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold…” Ps. 62:2 HCSB.

the Lord is good for those who Wait for HImThe only definite thing we believers have in common, other than Christ and Him crucified, is whether we are striving to obey His individual calling in our lives; not whether our individual instructions look similar.

shift from logical reasonings

Oswald Chambers set the bar high in his November 15 “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘When we are consciously being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, there is another stage to be reached, where all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated.  A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.’

humilty vs pride

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Roll Back the Clouds

dark thunder cloudsClouds cover the truth.  Whether they are menacing storm clouds covering the sun and a brilliant blue sky or whether they are clouds of trials and circumstances in our lives that cover our joy; they can block the truth.  They give a false appearance of something large, frightening and lasting, but they are usually short lived, their contents spill out quickly and they dissipate.  Just as the rain is soaked up and converted to use, so the contents of our trials can be useful when we let God convert them  to something good in us.

London to Brighton Veteran Car RunClouds gather moisture content and become puffed up.  They are billowy but without as much substance as would appear.  In Biblical contexts, to be “puffed up” refers to pride. (1 Cor. 5:2, 1 Cor. 8:1)  In the animal world, “puffing up” is an instinctive mechanism used to appear larger and more intimidating then is true.

puffer fishOur trials can seem puffed up, but they will pass and for those of us who turn to God and trust Him in them, they will not be wasted on us.   Clouds can block the light and dampen our moods just as our trials can catch us off guard and bring discouragement and worry.  But when we focus on the truth behind the trial  we can hold on through the dark season of clouds and even find joy there.

puffy clouds and bright skyHoratio Spafford wrote in “It is Well With My Soul”, ‘And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll!’  Rolling back the clouds of our trials reveals truths from God’s Word and is an important habit as we head for that time in eternity when the clouds will be rolled back to reveal heavenly realms.   These realms include God on His throne, angels, a holy city, mansions, streets of gold and an exquisitely set banquet table to name a few.  If you rolled back a few clouds in your life circumstances today, what forgotten truths would you remember?

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Warm Wednesay Words: You’re not the Player You Think You Are

 

goodness & worthOn my own I’m a mess and have nothing worth sharing.  But to be fair, that’s the case with all of us.  The times I get my panties in a wad are often the very times that insidious pride has crept in somewhere.  As C.S. Lewis said, “the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison.”  But the truth is, none of us have anything of eternal worth to share without Christ.  But with Him and because of Him, we have worth and a story to share.  He makes beauty from ashes and gives us irrevocable gifts.   All we need to do is be willing to let Him use them and leave the response or results to Him, whether we see their effect this side of Heaven or not.

you are unique the world needs youHere are a few red ” subtle pride” flags I’ve become aware of:  when I feel like someone’s estimation of me matters, when I feel pressured to do something that someone thinks I should even though my own soul searching with God (even for goodwill sake) doesn’t confirm that, when I do the thing God has laid on my heart and instead of trusting God with it, allow disappointment that it meant little or nothing to someone that mattered to me.

live for an audience of one

Most people are fairly incensed about entitlement when it comes to politics.  Most  agree that too many folks are engorged on an entitlement attitude that takes money out of the pockets of the majority and puts it into an unfair welfare system.  However, perhaps a spiritual entitlement check is in order.

www.pinterest.comWithout God, I’m nothing.  I wouldn’t even be here.  But I am, and because of Him I experience abundant life.  The only thing I’m entitled to as Adam and Eve’s progeny (with the same propensity for sin) is eternal separation from a Holy God.  Keeping that in the back of my mind, helps me apply humility and long-suffering to the holes where pride and entitlement would otherwise seep in.

little girl looking at apple

Thanks to Christ’s compassionate love for us and deep mercy, we who believe in Christ and His redemptive work on the cross are more than enough.  We were brought to a place of royalty…joint heirs with Christ Himself.  Now there’s a rags to riches true story for all time and eternity.   Do you allow your story to play in Christ’s cause?  No one but you can share your God given gifts and unique story!  Do you hold back from sharing what God has given you to share?   In Christ, we are all Most Valuable Players.

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