Sunday, June 9, 2019

The A, B, C's of Psalm 119

        "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. Psalm 119:14

     As a kid, I was a compulsive reader and since my mom wouldn't let me read Nancy Drew in church on Sunday mornings, out of desperation, I started reading the Bible.  I soon discovered Psalm 119.  Psalm 119 stretches over 8 pages in my Bible.   It is the longest chapter in the Bible and longer than many complete books of the Bible.  It had funny symbols and words like "Aleph" and "Beth" at the top of each section. It asked questions and then answered them. Since I love knowing the answer, I was hooked.  
          “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all of my heart.  Do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:9
    Though I wasn’t a “young man,” I knew these verses applied to me. As a little kid, I decided to hide God’s Word in my heart. 
        The beauty of reading the Law and Psalm 119 when I was a kid was that I knew I had much to learn.    Verses that started with “Teach me” like verse 35, “Teach me O Lord to follow your decrees,  verse 66, “Teach me knowledge and good judgement for I believe in your commands,” and verse 68,  “You are good and what you do is good. Teach me your decrees” made sense to me.  I didn’t know everything and I wanted to learn.  
     When the psalmist said, “Your statutes are wonderful therefore I obey them,” I updated my definition of "wonderful" to include God’s commands along with ice cream, horses and libraries. 
      Psalm 119 was not only inspirational but it was practical. When I felt lonely and people picked on me by calling me names, I took hope in this verse.
“May your unfailing love come to me O Lord and your salvation according to your promise then I will answer those who taunt me for I trust in your word.” Psalm 119:41
      I realized that even the guy who wrote this Psalm was picked on and taunted, so I learned not to take things personally and to trust in God’s Word rather than the words of my bullies.
  "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. Psalm 119:14
      I leaned it was possible to rejoice in God’s statutes as one rejoices in great riches.  I had a pretty good idea of the effect that great riches would have on my life and family.  Every year, I would fill out the forms for the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes.  I carefully picked out if I wanted a lump sum payment and a blue Jaguar.  I knew winning the sweepstakes would be amazing and if God’s command led to rejoicing as one who has great riches, I decided to rejoice in following God’s commands. 
       My passion for reading helped me understand the all-consuming longing for God’s commands the psalmist described. 
"My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” Psalm 119:20
         Love is a theme throughout Psalm 119. This grabbed my attention, it was short and inspiring.  
"Oh how I love your law. I meditate on it all day long.”  Psalm 119:97
    I decided to love God’s law. It was the only logical thing to do, especially after I read the following verses that said God’s commands would make me wiser than my enemies, give me more insight than my teachers, and more understanding than the elders (verses 98-100) I was a kid who wanted to know more than my teachers and since most everyone was older than me – the thought of surpassing my elders was highly motivating.  I learned that obedience was a sign my love for God. 
“I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.”  Psalm 119:167
     I also realized that the law was a sign of God’s love for me. It was a two way relationship.
               “See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, LORD, in accordance with your love.” Psalm 119:159
     Imagine being a kid sitting in church, halfway listening to a sermon reading,“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”  Psalm 119:160  
     These words went deep into my heart and provided a value framework for everything I read in the Bible.  As I got older, and I read Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; my understanding of the law was filtered through love and passion. As a preteen, I didn’t understand legalism and control, adding to the law, or perversion by human interpretation but I knew God’s words were true. 
     Knowing and loving God’s law became a defining part of my relationship with God.  Because I knew that God deeply loved me, obedience to the law wasn’t a way to earn God’s love instead it was a way to show my love to Him.  I knew that the Law was a gift and a sign of God’s love for me.

Seeing Value

Do you value God’s law? Are you consumed with longing and love for God’s law? Why or Why not?
Do you think your passion for God’s law has affected your life for good or bad? 
Have you experienced times when people are more focused on tradition than God’s law?
What is more precious to you -wealth like thousands of pieces of gold or God’s Law?
If God’s laws are eternal, how do they apply in your life?

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Never Alone- Filling the Gap in My Heart

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
I was lonely, too.  The realization struck me when my friend mentioned feeling alone in the midst of the busyness of life.  Why would she feel alone?  I knew she had a flexible job, a supportive husband, and great kids; plus I was her friend.  And why did I understand how she felt, not in a casual "I know how you are feeling" kind of way, but in a socked in the gut understanding that came as soon as she said the word? 
Lonely isn’t a word that I have spent a lot of time with.  I asked Jesus into my life at a very young age, so for as long as I can remember, I have known that I was never alone. I went to sleep knowing I could pray and talk to him. I was confident my first day of school knowing He was with me. I boldly traveled the world knowing He was with me. I knew if friends betrayed me or ditched me, He was always faithful.

I dug deep to remember another season when I had felt deeply lonely.   I went back to my sophomore year of college.  My fifteen year old sister had died only months before.  When the fall semester started, I was in a place that I loved, surrounded by people who were great friends, but I was desperately lonely.   I knew my friends cared for me but none of them knew what I was going through.  My world had changed. Though I was confident that my sister knew Jesus and I would see her again one day, my heart was ripped open by the hole she had filled. 

I realized my friend and I were lonely - not because we didn’t have great friends and family - but we were both lonely because in the past year, we both had lost a part of ourselves.  We both were mourning the death of someone very dear to us.  Someone who grounded us, encouraged us and listened without judging.   Someone who had been a rock in our lives, who was a part of our routine and who had made us who we are.   When we lost them, we lost a part of ourselves. 

Grief has filtered my daily moments so I have been more aware of friends who have lost their loved ones.  I texted a friend through the night as her mom agonizingly took her last breath. Three friends have lost parents or grandparents to dementia and Alzheimer’s.  I sat at the hospice bedside of my vibrant, opinionated friend from book club who was struck with an aneurysm.  In just the past six months, I have hugged two friends who lost their sons in vehicle accidents.  The grief and loss is overwhelming. 

How do you go on - and yet - in the midst of grief - you do.  You get up, get dressed, go to work, feed the kids and even see friends. Lysa Terkeurst posted on Instagram that “sorrow and celebration can coexist together in a heart quite authentically.”  I get that.   But in the midst of celebration, sometimes the loneliness is like a knife.  The loss feels the strongest because they are not there.

It is logical to assuage our loneliness by reaching out and trying to fill the gap in our hearts. If we look to anything- people, food, work, busyness- to heal our hearts we will be disappointed. None satisfy. We will still be lonely.  I have friends who got divorced after a parent died. Feeling like their spouse didn’t understand their loss created a wedge in their relationship.  Parents who lose children are statistically more likely to get divorced. The pain and grief is numbing. To expect our spouse, kids or friends to understand is unrealistic; so our unmet expectations magnify the pain in our heart. No other person can know what we have lost because in losing our loved one, we have lost a part of ourselves. 

Although no person can really understand our pain, Jesus can. When the burden is overwhelming, he will carry me and my heartbreak.  

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light." Matthew 11: 28-30  

I feel lonely right now but I am relying on truth that I learned as a little girl, I am not alone.  Jesus is with me.  He promised to never leave me or forsake me. Since he knows my heart, he knows the part that is missing. He holds me close and understands. He is acquainted with grief.  He wept when he was told that his friend Lazarus had died.  He knows the pain of loss.  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death He is with me. 

Dear Jesus, Please give my friends and me rest.  Take this heavy burden of grief and give us peace. Hold us close so that we know we aren’t alone.  You understand our pain and sadness. Walk with us while we are in the shadow of death. Bind up our broken hearts. Remind us that you love every part of us- even the part that we have lost. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Silent Treatment- Knowing When to Shut Up and When to Shout

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. Proverbs 17:28

photo courtesy of Scott Umstattd on Usplash

Being silent is hard for me. I have an opinion and I am more than happy to share it, whether you may want to hear it or not. Then one year for Lent, God challenged me to not give my opinion unless asked.  It became a gift and blessing in ways I would have never imagined. 

As we are drawing near to the Lenten season, I was reminded of my vow of silence when I heard a wise woman share her take on the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho.  She didn't focus on the miracle of the walls falling down or the obedient faith of the soldiers as they marched around the city.  Instead she pointed out that they were silent. Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” Joshua 6:10 
Silence is an effective military strategy. Think of ninjas and SWAT teams silently creeping into position.  But this wasn't the case in the attack of Jericho, though the soldiers were silent, seven priests were blowing seven trumpets as they marched to the city and around it.   The soldiers' silence wasn't about sneaking up on the city but was about the work of God in their hearts.  They had to focus and pray, heal and gain strength.  Joshua's command reminded me of something similar in Exodus when the people realized Pharaoh had nearly caught up with them and the Red Sea was in front of them.  Moses told them, "The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14  I realized that when God's people were heading into a place of freedom and deliverance, it often required a time of silence.  

I have to admit, when God called me to fast giving my opinion, I wasn't silent right away. Instead, I started arguing with God. My mental debate went something like, "Why'd you give me a mouth if you didn't want me to use it?"  But my debate only lasted until the first day of Lent. Arguing with God isn't worth it. Long ago, I became convinced that if God tells me to do something, it is for my benefit and I will only make my life miserable if I resist.

As I braced myself for an extended month of silence, I reminded myself God had spoken through a burning bush and a donkey so He could certainly get His message across to the people in my life without my help during the 40 days of Lent. Not speaking unless asked became very freeing. Pressure I didn't even know I had evaporated away.  I started enjoying not having to say anything.  

Scholars say that most of us don't really listen to people because we are so focused on what we are planning to say in response.  I didn't have to worry about coming up with the perfect response, so I prayed more and really listened. My words became focused on God rather than on myself.  I didn't have to fix the people and situations in my life - God could. 

The greatest gift during this season was when people I respected and loved asked for my opinion. It was my time to shout.  When they stopped to say, "What do you think?'  I was humbled to my core.  I had given my opinion so freely in the past, I never realized the privilege of sharing my thoughts. Because I didn't expect to share my opinion, I was taking the time to pray and really listen, so my response had substance. I paused to let God speak to my heart before I spoke to others. 

God might not be calling you to give up sharing your opinion for Lent but He is calling you deeper every day.   Lent is often a time that I seek to hear God and grow in obedience to things He has already called me to do.  It has become a boot camp of spiritual growth.  

What is God calling you to do for Lent this year?  Are you going to give up something? What has He been calling you to do that you can do for the next 40 days?  Let me know in the comments below.   

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Mirror Mirror on the Wall- Who is Fairest of Them All?

"We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12

How do we teach kids to value themselves but not think they are superior to others?   This is a question that several of my friends have asked me in the past several weeks.   It is a tough balance.  They want their kids to know that they are wonderfully made.  And every person is precious and unique.  Created with a purpose to do great things. But so many kids can't see all these good things. These kids are struggling with body image issues- hair color, weight, skin tone, height and athletic ability.  They also struggle with comparing their bodies  to others and feeling inferior. They don't feel as pretty or as athletic as their friends.  They feel judged by their insufficiency because they judge themselves.  They envy what others have and even question God's love and their parents love because they don't love themselves.   

I understand the questions in my friends' kids' hearts- because I was that insecure kid.  I knew that God loved me- but I felt like he loved other people more. Though I was blessed - I didn't see the blessing.  Other people had better hair, better families, and were more coordinated. 

I resented how God made me so I became bitter toward God  and I rejected Him. Ironically, my feelings of inferiority transformed into pride.  What is pride? Here's a quick definition- pride elevates our opinion and our will over God's opinion and His will. In my pride, I rejected what the Creator of the Universe had designed. I looked in the mirror and said, "I am not good enough." 

Rejecting God's design never leads to happiness. "Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 11:2 If pride is elevating my opinion and my will over God, then humility is elevating God's opinion and God's will over my own.  When I chose humility - to elevate God's opinion of myself and others- my life fell into place. Jesus told his followers ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ in Mark 12:31. Loving myself and others was second only to loving God. I knew that God wasn't finished with me and that His plan was eternal. I had peace and contentment- though outwardly I was the same. 

As I was talking with a friend about this struggle to see my value, I shared with her this analogy. Imagine that that God started with the same lump of gold and created every person with equal value, then He molded each of us into beautiful earrings, necklaces, and rings.  Each creation was beautiful and equally valuable but dramatically different.  A simple gold ring that compares itself to a necklace will always feel inferior. But a ring that realizes it is a wedding ring - created for a special purpose - is confident not in its own abilities but in the Creator who designed it. 

Each of us have been designed for a specific purpose. It is not wise to compare ourselves to others. It is hurtful to God and to ourselves when we put down God's design.  Here's how Paul explains it, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12 

As moms, we can't teach our kids if we haven't learned the lesson.  We need to stop comparing ourselves with others or our internal ideal.  God's not finished with us - He is still molding and making us for his glory- even our imperfections can be used to bless others.  As moms we need to remind our kids who are struggling that God created every person with intrinsic value - not one person is more valuable than another- but everyone is unique and special.  They don't have to compare themselves with their friends, celebrities or their internal idols. God is not finished with them because He has an eternal plan for their lives.
Here's a great verse for us and for our kids to memorize:"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10, NLT 
Dear Jesus- Thank you for making me unique and special.  Thank you for creating me with a purpose.  Please forgive me my pride and for comparing myself to others. I am sorry for doubting your plan for my life and rejecting your design.  Please help me love myself and love others.  Please help me show your love and acceptance to my kids and friends. Amen

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Going to Disney World and Other Wonderous Adventures

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-25

What is the best age to visit Disney World?  I think seven is a great age-  My grandson is five and so I think he is getting close to that age where a kid can walk the entire park, can appreciate the rides and remember the trip but not be too old for wonder. His mom and I were talking about her first trip to Disney World when she was 8 years old. The funny thing is she didn't remember that trip at all; as we were talking about a good age to visit, she insisted her first trip was when she was 10.  Fortunately, I was into scrapbooking back then so I was able to pull out a scrapbook with pictures of the cutest 8 year old in front of Cinderella's castle, her picture on the Safari ride and our whole family on the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom.  After seeing proof of our family trip, she agreed that she had been to Disney at 8 and 10.
              So if kids can't really remember going when they are young... why even take them? This leads to a story my friend told me about her friend that shocked me completely.  So my friend's friend goes to Florida every year on a week long vacation.  When her kids were little they would drive to Disney World and pause and take a picture of the front entrance.  Another year, they might drive by Epcot or Sea World and stop at the entrance and take a picture. They never actually went in the parks!  But when people asked the kids what they did on vacation in Florida, the kids would happily say, "We went to Disney World." These little kids didn't know better. They thought the entrance signs were all there was to see at the Wonderful World of Disney. When they got home they could happily look at pictures of themselves in front of the Magic Kingdom Monorail or Epcot sign, confident they had been to Disney World. 
               Imagine, when the kids get older, would they want to go back to Disney? They think they've been there and they have the picture to prove it.  They really wouldn't care about going.  No big deal.  But anyone who has been inside the gates of Walt Disney World will tell you there is no comparing what the entrance is like to what is inside the gates.  Yeah - the monorail outside the gates is nice but Space Mountain and the Test Track are so exciting. The free boat ride from the parking lot is fun but the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride is an adventure.
               As my friend was telling me about this mom's choice to "take her kids to Disney World,” I couldn't help but see spiritual similarities.  Often we take our kids to church and we show up on Sunday, but we never enter into community. Our connection with God and the church starts and stops at the entrance. We have a "check the box" mentality. Our lives aren't transformed and our kids don't see the point of a relationship with God.
            Imagine if those kids grew up and "took" their kids to Disney World, the next generation would think that taking a picture outside the gates was enough. Unless one of the kids pipes up and says, "Mom, there's more. I see people going in the gates. I want to go in too" the cycle of ignorance would continue. As Christians we should want to know God more, we should experience more of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we shouldn't be content with a surface understanding of God's Word.  Without a desire for more, we can continue in a cycle of spiritual ignorance; maybe because we haven't been taught the truth or because we have hardened our hearts to God and ignored it. 
         "Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  
          But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV
        We can all be ignorant of God's best. We can continue in the patterns and habits we learned from our parents and from the culture around us. Just like those kids thought they had been to Disney, but had never been; there are many people who are ignorant of the life-changing impact a relationship with Christ should have in every part of our lives. 
           As we put on a new self in Christ, we should experience transformation in our hearts that scriptures call the “fruit of the spirit.” "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-25
          If our lives haven't been transformed, if we don’t have peace, joy or forbearance (aka patience), it is possible we know about Christ but we don't know Christ. Many people know about Jesus; when he was born, when he died, and where he grew up, however they do not know him personally. Knowing Jesus makes a difference in every part of your life. You have peace with God. 
          If you want to know Jesus personally, the first step is to pray and ask to know him. Prayer is simply talking to God.Your prayer should be your own, from your own heart. If you're not in the habit of praying, though, you may need an example, you can start with something like this:
         “Dear Jesus, I want to know you, not just know about you. I realize that I have made many selfish choices. I am impure and not perfect. I want to turn from my sins. You are holy and perfect. Please forgive me for my sinfulness. I believe that you died in my place to pay the penalty for my sin and rose again for my salvation. I invite you to come into my heart and life as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for taking away my sin and making me whole. Please give me your Holy Spirit so that I can experience peace and joy. Thank you for loving me and adopting me into your family. I ask this according to your will in your holy name. Amen.”

          As you are making plans for the New Year, I want to challenge you to seek out more of Christ.  Be like the little child who says, "There's more."  Some things that you can ask for include asking God for more understanding of His Word, asking  to experience the Holy Spirit in every day life, seeking to get deeper this year.  Go beyond the entrance and really experience all that God has for you this year. 
         Let me know how you have asked for more- I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pinterest Paranoia

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” Jeremiah 9:23-24

You might not realize this about me but I am afraid of Pinterest.  I didn’t realized till someone innocently asked me, “Why don’t you look it up on Pinterest?”  Feelings of shame and inferiority; that I would never measure up to "Pinterest Perfection" and that my puny efforts to be creative would be wasted, grabbed hold of me. I am a stay at home mom and my kids are in school, how do these Pinterest people have the time to be creative and then post how to do it?  I start to question what I am doing with my life.  
           Pinterest isn't bad; it inspires, teaches and provides a fun creative outlet. My friend Dawn shared her Pinterest worthy Thanksgiving table  for the picture above. Why should a website filled with recipes, teacher handouts, house plans, table decorations and hair styles fill me with fear?  I know I am not alone, I have friends who avoid social media because they don’t want to be consumed by comparison of what other people have, they are embarrassed by their less than perfect lives and are afraid they don’t measure up. 
         I realize my fear isn't actually about Pinterest and it goes back long before I even had a computer.  It is the same fear that led me to worry about what clothes I wore to middle school, if they were the right brand or style. I was ashamed of our family car, a 1971 Dodge station wagon, google it, you might understand. Though my sisters and I went through a bottle of hair spray a week, my flat hair never measured up in the big hair 80's. Christmas time in middle school was even harder.  Kids would come back from Christmas break with new clothes and shoes and technology, my presents never good enough.
Why would any of us feel ashamed of the clothes we wear, how we look, the car we drive, our parents or where we go on vacation? This is a distortion of shame. We are supposed to feel ashamed of things like adultery or murder, lying or stealing. Think about it. Our society condones actions that devalue God’s Word and glorifies adultery and sex outside of marriage, promotes marches to support abortion and encourages ways to lie and cheat. Gossip becomes entertainment. Infidelity becomes satisfaction. Satan uses bait and switch tactics so that we focus on the wrong things and never realize what we are missing. By getting us to focus on temporal things that we don't have, clothes, hair, perfect kids and Pinterest worthy decorations - envy and inferiority keeps us from focusing on God's eternal gifts. Our lack of gratefulness for what we have and our focus on others lets covetousness and greed creep into our hearts- we want what someone else has.
The antidote to greed is gratefulness and love. "If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:30-31
When we love someone we want the best for them. "Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14   We don't resent what they have or feel we need to compare. Compassion, generosity and beauty flow out of love. "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8 
We should celebrate our friend's creative talent, not because she can set a table that rivals Martha Stewart, but because she is using her God given gifts to make this world a more beautiful place. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."1 Peter 4:10
We should rejoice with friends who receive the present we longed for because it doubles their joy and more joy makes the world a kinder place. "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15
We should give to others who have little because it helps us appreciate what God has given us. "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38
We should comfort those who are lonely and mourning because we will all be comforted, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4
I realized my problem isn't Pinterest, Facebook or any other social media site, my problem is my heart. I allowed greed and envy to take my focus from all that God has given me. My friends who are blessed with the gift of creativity are to be celebrated. I don't have to compete with them just like they aren't competing with me on blogs written. God made us all different. We are blessed because we get to enjoy each other's gifts and giftedness. We can celebrate with friends that go on amazing vacations or have the perfect wardrobe knowing that every good gift comes down from our Heavenly Father. He loves us completely and knows what is best for us. If we lose our focus on eternal priorities, we will start to covet and become ungrateful. If we are living in a place of ungratefulness, we choosing to despise God's gifts just like when a teenager is ungrateful for their birthday present. God's blessings are not limited, His love and resources have no end. Rather than focusing on what you don't have, stop and thank God for all that He has blessed you, your kids, friends, husband, and your neighbors with.

Dear God- You are the creator and giver of every good gift. You are the source of breath and life. Your resources are without end- you create from nothing. You have all knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for blessing this world with your grace and spirit. Thank you for blessing me with breath and life. Thank you for food and clothes, thank you for the people you have brought into my life- friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, clerks, postal workers, healers and teachers. Thank you for the gifts and resources you have given them- knowledge, money, time, wisdom, love, encouragement, ability, creativity, dependability. Thank you that you fit us all together like a puzzle- each piece shaped differently yet integral to your whole picture. Please help me not compare my part and design with others but be grateful for your plan and perspective. I am sorry for not trusting your timing and design, I am sorry for not being grateful for all you have blessed me with, I am sorry for letting greed and envy sneak into my heart, Please forgive me and fill me with gratitude, love, patience and understanding. Amen

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chosen to Love

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 )

My husband and I went to a beautiful Fall wedding in the mountains, we were outside and surrounded by the beauty of nature, awed by the beauty of the bride and touched by the groom’s deep love. Weddings are synonymous with love. Two people who love each other deeply and have chosen each other above all others invite their friends and family to celebrate their love in a celebration of marriage.  

Love is the central force behind the commands throughout the Bible. God loved his people simply because He chose them. God’s love for His people is often compared to a husband’s love for his bride. It is all encompassing, life-changing love. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 explains why God chose his people, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you …”(Italics mine)  Deuteronomy may appear to be a book about rules and commands but at its heart is captures God’s amazing love for people and His desire to be loved by them. 

As part of this covenant between God and his people, Israel was expected to love God and obey His commandments out of love. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 )

Let’s take a minute to dig into what “Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength” really means.  The word translated “heart” in this verse is also translated “courage, desire, intelligence, purpose, understanding and thought.” Soul can also be translated, “body, desire, feelings, greed, human being, passion, person, thirst and life.” The Hebrew word translated “strength” is an adverb; it refers to doing things strongly and mightily.  

God wants a powerful life-changing relationship.  He wants us to love him with “courage, desire, intelligence, purpose, understanding and thought” and with all of our “body, desire, feelings, greed, being, passion, person, thirst and life” and we are to do it strongly and mightily.  This is not a weak passive relationship but determined and powerful. 

How can we love God using our intelligence… our courage… our understanding… our body… our feelings and desires… our passion… our life and our whole person?  As we live this out with every breath and thought, every action and feeling, our lives will be transformed in relationship with the one who chose us, deeply loves us that is beyond our human ability to love.

Jesus quoted this verse when he was asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:29-30  The most important thing that we can do is to love God, it reciprocates the amazing love that God has already given us, it brings us into relationship with Him, it fulfills our purpose and allows us to know how precious, beautiful and loved we are to our Creator and True Love.