Sunday, April 30, 2017

Master and Lord

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6

In years past, one of my favorite things to do was cuddle up with my husband and watch the joys and travails of Downton Abbey.   Over the years, we learned about the lives of Lord and Lady Grantham and were entertained by the blunt talk of the Dowager Countess.   At the same time, we followed the lives of their staff, like, the scullery maid, Daisy, the valet Bates and Mr. Carson, the butler. 

Lord Grantham was responsible for all of the people and land surrounding Downton Abbey.  It was a responsibility that he took seriously but often the phrase, “Lord of the Manor” doesn’t connote care and concern but means someone who bosses everyone else around with no concern for anyone else.  

In the Bible, both LORD and Lord are names used by God and by his people to describe their relationship. The Name of God יְהֹוָה  is used over 6,500 times in the Bible. It is translated in all caps as LORD. It not pronounced by devout Jews even to this day.  To refer to the LORD in speech, the word used was Adonay אֲדֹנָי which means Lord and Master. It is used 435 times in the Old Testament, often when the writer or speaker was addressing the Lord in prayer.  The root word in "Adonay" is "Adon" which simply means "Lord or Master", just as Lord Grantham was lord and master of Downton Abbey and its inhabitants. 

God is Lord and Master of His creation including you and me.   As much as I understand this to be true, I have to admit that I struggled with the concept of accepting God as my Master.  Here’s how I described that struggle in my book Embracing Change, “One of the most important times in my spiritual life was when I made the choice to accept God as LORD of my life. At a young age, I believed in God but it took me till I was 17 to acknowledge God as my Lord. For most of my teen years, I had an attitude toward God that basically said, “You’re not the boss of me.” However, my ability (actually inability) to manage my life always left me wanting more. I was never satisfied or complete. At 17, I decided to trust God and let him be LORD of my life- that I would do things His way and seek first His kingdom and righteousness. It was transformational.”

I learned at 17 that I needed to accept God as my Lord and Master but until I read this quote in The Path of Blessing by Marcia Prager that my new friend Barbara gave me I didn’t understand why acknowledging God’s Lordship as Master was so important. She explains the meaning of the root word of Adonay is Adon.   “It is true on the most pedestrian level adon is translated "mister" or "master".... when we hear "master," our  conditioned response is to think master/slave or master/servant.  ...Translating Adon as master can invite us to look more deeply into the experience of mastery. If we move beyond the master/ servant, motif we encounter mastery in another sense, that of a master craftsman, one who has perfected an art or a skill."

Something clicked as I read this.  I realized we would all love for a Master Chef to cook our dinners, a Master Stylist to cut our hair, a Master Electrician to run the wires in our new house. It is just better. Sometimes I have compromised and have used the Junior Stylist at a salon or have even done some electrical wiring on my own.  My hair wasn’t cut straight and my electrical work failed the first inspection.  The Master’s expertise simply makes everything better whether it is a steak dinner or haircut. At age 17, inviting God to be my Lord and Master enabled me to tap into the expertise of the one who created every part of this world, who knows the past present and future, who understands every cell in my body and every galaxy in the universe. Connecting to the Master enables us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

If you have not prayed and asked God to be LORD of your life, take a minute to pray and invite Him to be the Master. If He is the LORD of your life- write down a prayer of praise and thanks for His mastery, dominion and power. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Future Resources

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

My parents are heading to Costa Rica for a ten day vacation that involves dental work.  This trip is a unique blend of a genuine need, God's provision and the desires of my parents' hearts.  My dad chipped his tooth and needs some pricey dental work done. My mom loves to travel and my dad has been researching alternative retirement locations for years. A trip to Costa Rica meets all these requirements. Since my parents don't speak Spanish and have never been to Central America, God provided Patricia, a church friend from Costa Rica who offered to be the bridge for my parents on their trip.  She has lots and lots of family to resource in country including a cousin who is a dentist and another that will provide a place to stay at her family rate. 

As my dad and I were talking about the possibilities of dental tourism- there is a whole section on TripAdvisor about it- we couldn't help but see how God had already provided all they needed for the trip. I haven't considered retiring to Costa Rica but they have.  I don't have a friend from Costa Rica whose relative is a dentist but they did. In fact, they have known Patricia for years. God had started the process of providing for their needs long before Dad's tooth was chipped. Mathew 6:8 encourages all of us that God "knows what you need before you ask him."  We don't have to worry because He has provided.  

I have seen God's hand of provision stretch through time in my life.  I love that the word provision breaks into "pro" which means "before" and "vision" which means "to see." God provides what we need because He can see what is to come before it happens.  

Just as God brought my parents and Patricia to the same church years ago, He has brought what I needed into my life long before I needed it.   The acknowledgments section in my women of the Bible study Embracing Change include praise to God for a group of friends that I met in college over 20 years ago. God knew that we would need each other in college and in the years to come. God perfectly ordained the assignment of our dorm rooms and gave me a group of friends that held me accountable, cried with me when my sister died, celebrated with me at my wedding and text me to this day.  

One of those friends Betts Keating wrote in her engaging and heart breaking memoir about our friend Laura who moved five minutes away from her, 18 years after they were roommates in college, "I can say without a shadow of a doubt that God's timing in the gift of her friendship was perfect. I was in a place where I could receive her friendship in my life. She was in a place where she could be in my life. Thankfully both of those places were physically the same place."  

Betts had also experienced God's provision in a previous move to Boston though she didn't understand it a the time. God used a new job in Boston to provide what her unborn baby Ella would need long before she was a glimmer in her daddy's eye.  Ella was diagnosed with a heart defect while she was still in Betts' womb. Boston has one of the top pediatric heart centers in the country. Betts and her husband thought they were moving for a job, God could see what was to come and had provided the job so that Ella would have all that she needed to live and thrive. 

God's provision can be years in the making.  Last week, I wrote about our redemption story and Boaz' role as a Kinsman Redeemer in the Book of Ruth.  The four chapters of Ruth compress many years of suffering and waiting to see God's provision into a story with a happy ending. Boaz had waited years for his dream of a wife and family. It seemed impossible.  His mother was Rahab, a Caananite and a former prostitute so none of the people in his town wanted to let their daughters marry him.  Here's what I wrote about him in Embracing Change, "though Boaz grew up to be a kind and godly man, his younger years were probably miserable. Boaz is a great encouragement to those of us who were embarrassed by our heritage or mocked because we didn't look like everyone else. We can take comfort in the thought that though people look on outward appearance, God looks on the heart.  He made us and designed us with a special purpose that uses each of our unique attributes and life history for His glory."  God knows what we need and what the people around us will need in the future.   The very things that had kept the local parents from letting their daughters marry Boaz were God's protection and pro-vision  for Ruth and him. He was single and available to marry the beautiful widow Ruth. Ruth and Boaz' son Obed was the the grandfather of King David and the ancestor of Jesus. God's Pro Vision is perfect. 

If you are in a time of waiting, ask God to give you understanding so that you have vision and hope for what is to come.  

If you are in need of provision- ask Him to open your eyes to what He has already provided- you may even have a trip to Costa Rica in your future. 

"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

Let me know how you have seen God's provision in your life and the lives of those around you. Can you see His provision through events and people that came into your life years ago? 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Redemption Story

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

Sports writers love to use the word “redemption’ when it comes to telling stories of victories and justice in impossible situations.  Easter is a story of redemption. Victory in the face of defeat. Overcoming impossible odds. On first glance, the redemption story of Easter seems to revolve around the vicious crucifixion of Jesus and then His miraculous resurrection on Easter morning. It is a true comeback story with a happy ending after a brutal defeat. 
Dig a little deeper and you will find that the resurrection story isn’t really about Jesus as much as it is about all of us. For every one of us, there can be a personal redemption story in the Easter story.  Easter is the story of our redemption. The happy ending to the tragedy that all of us have made mistakes and have sinned. None of us is good enough to earn eternal salvation. 
We certainly don’t deserve the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. Who deserves someone being beaten to within a breath from dying for them? Who deserves someone having a crown of thorns jammed on their head? Who deserves someone being spit on, nailed to a cross and dying from asphyxiation so that they can have eternal life? I don’t know anyone that deserves that level of sacrifice. I do however; know people who would chose to go through that level of suffering to protect their child or their spouse. Their love for their family means they would do whatever it took to protect them. 
The Biblical concept of the Kinsman Redeemer outlines some of the sacrifices certain family members would make for their relatives. Here’s what I wrote about the Kinsman Redeemer in the chapter about Naomi in my Bible study, Embracing Change- Learning To Trust God from the Women of the Bible, “The kinsman-redeemer,ga’al” (גָּאַל), which is sometimes translated “guardian redeemer” was a role created by God to protect family members and the family’s inheritance. [1] The kinsman-redeemer had an important role in the life of their family and tribe. The kinsman-redeemer made sure that God’s people and tribes’ inheritance of land were protected, and they were responsible to buy back family land if a family member sold it to pay debts.[2] His responsibilities included buying a fellow Israelite out of slavery[3] and being the “avenger of blood” to make sure that justice was carried out if a family member was murdered.[4] Of particular importance to Naomi was his responsibility to carry on the family name by marrying a childless widow[5]
“God redeemed us in person through Jesus Christ. He is our kinsman-redeemer who has set us free from the yoke of slavery. Though we were once slaves to sin and death, he has set us free and paid a price for our ransom that we could never pay. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”[6] Jesus paid the price for your sin and has set you free from the chains of your past choices, your parents’ sins and other people’s destructive behaviors. You are Free![7]
If you feel there are areas in your life that you are still in bondage, pray and repent for staying in a place of slavery and bondage and for discounting the power of His blood and the price He paid for you.

Ask Jesus to show you the Truth; and claim these blessings:
He has set you free, redeemed you and He has paid the price for your sin.
You are a precious Bride redeemed and valued by her Beloved.
You have a magnificent home waiting for you in heaven.
You are no longer a slave.
You are protected and guarded as a child of the King.
You are an heir to a priceless inheritance.
Your debts have been paid. Jesus’ blood covers it all.

Thank Him for His sacrifice, His precious blood and His amazing love that washes away all of our sins so that we can have a right relationship with him. He is your kinsman-redeemer.”

Our redemption story is only through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5 

Rejoice with me!  God loves us so much that He sent Jesus into the world to save us from the consequences of our failures and mistakes. He is our Kinsman Redeemer. His victory is our salvation. His battle with the grave set us free from slavery to sin and death. He paid the price so that we walk in victory not because of what we have done but because of his sacrifice on the cross. 

[1] Guzik, David. "Study Guide for Ruth 3." Enduring Word. Blue Letter Bible. 7 Jul 2006. 2010. 3 Nov 2010.
AuthorID=2&contentID=7552&commInfo=31&topic=Ruth >
[2] Leviticus 25:25

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Making Space

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:3
Once upon a very, very long time ago in 2014, I de-cluttered my desk cubbies and storage areas.  Yesterday, I decided to once again tackle this catch-all that sits proudly full of "stuff" in my kitchen. Needless to say, I found some items that were pretty important and some things I didn't know I were missing like five packs of gum and two boxes of tic tacs!  Who knew I had so much gum, a mini color printer and ten rolls of tape?    I feel pretty good about the transformation though it truly isn't finished. I still have some filing to do and pictures to scan but those are on-going projects in my life like doing laundry and cooking dinner.  I am sure I will get to them before 2020.

As I wrapped up this huge task last night, I pondered the pristine open space above my desk.  I realized that if I am not intentional, I will fill it junk that I don't need and then even forget the good things I have in it. This is an important point in my spiritual life as well. I can fill my life up with so much stuff that I forget to focus on God and the good things I have in Him. 

For me, during the weeks leading up to Easter, I try to let go of the extras in my life and create some open space. Next, I fill up that open space with something that God has called me to do to grow closer to Him. 

This spring, I gave up reading the Wall Street Journal. It's not bad for me but it cluttered my mind. I would often start the day time reading instead of cleaning, praying, writing, cooking or exercising. Before I knew it, I didn’t have time to all the things I intended to do.  Many days would go by without writing a single word but I always found time to read the paper.  There's nothing like the joy of cuddling up with the paper and a cup of tea. 

By giving up the paper, I freed up significant time at least four days a week.  I wish I could say that I used all this free time to clean, exercise and write, I didn't.  Mostly I checked emails, got on Facebook, watched TV and wandered down interesting Google rabbit trails. My goal for these six weeks leading up to Easter was to pray for healing for friends and relatives.  I have to admit, I barely made time to pray just five minutes every day for healing for friends and family members. 

These past five weeks without the Wall Street Journal have shown me something important.  If I am not intentional with how I fill my time, I will take it for granted and waste it. In the same way, if I am not intentional with how I use money or food, I will waste them.  One of the most important principals in the Bible to prevent waste is the concept of giving a portion to God.  We give 10% to God so that the rest is blessed. As Luke 6:38 says, “Give and it will be given to you.”  This doesn’t intuitively make sense.  If you have a limited amount of time or money, why would you then give some of it away?   The key to understanding this principal is based on insight into human nature that by giving some of what we have, we will be more careful with what we have left. 

Giving should affect every part of our life.  It can help us not waste our time, our money, and our resources.  We are called to give 10%  of our resources to God, we are called to give one day a week and even during busy times like the harvest we have to help the less fortunate.  These boundaries create places of rest in our lives so we appreciate what we have left, carefully use it and don't waste it.  

While cleaning off my desk I came across a quote from writer Randy Alcorn.  He said, “As a New Testament follower of Christ, in the most affluent society in human history, there’s no way I could ever justify giving less than 10 % when God had required that, really, of the poorest Israelite.”
God called his people to give because He knew that it was good for them.   Giving was a part of life whether you were rich or poor, had a huge farm or almost nothing. Intentionally giving of time and resources creates a virtuous cycle where you appreciate what you have, less is wasted and everyone involved is blessed. 

For me, too much space meant I could just keep stuffing things in the cubbies above my desk above my desk. I didn't need to clean so I hadn't since 2014! Being intentional with money helps me focus on important things and not waste it. Too much time meant wasting it by watching TV and browsing the internet. Being intentional with my time will help me use my mental space in a way that will be more productive and bless others.  

I am so looking forward to reading the Wall Street Journal in a week but I have realized that I have to set boundaries on my time.  Being intentional in this area is new for me. How do you make sure you don’t waste what you have? 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Is your Self Talk a Blessing or a Curse?

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The captains on my tennis team had a request; they asked that everyone on the team take a turn and share an inspirational quote to motivate our team. Last week was my turn. I am not much of an athlete so I didn't feel like I had much to share on my own so I googled research about affirmation and sports.  My google search was driven by the truths I had learned over the past year about the biblical concept of blessings and curses. I recently read the book The Blessing by Trent and Smalley.  In this book they use the model that Jacob used to bless his 12 sons to teach people and  parents in particular the power of blessing.  They also talked about the power of cursing and traced the Hebrew root meaning cursing to the idea of devaluing. It is spelled out qalal.  This word is translated "curse" but we would use the phrases devalue, demean, insignificant as synonyms.

Here is the definition from
be slight, be swift, be trifling, be of little account, be light
1. (Qal)
    1. to be slight, be abated (of water)

    2. to be swift

    3. to be trifling, be of little account

2. (Niphal)
    1. to be swift, show oneself swift

    2. to appear trifling, be too trifling, be insignificant

    3. to be lightly esteemed

3. (Piel)
    1. to make despicable

    2. to curse

4. (Pual) to be cursed

5. (Hiphil)
    1. to make light, lighten

    2. to treat with contempt, bring contempt or dishonour

Blessings bring honor, value and significance. A curse devalues, dishonors and treats someone with contempt.

I shared with my team that this Biblical concept of blessing and cursing can be applied to our tennis matches as well.  If we make a mistake we can devalue ourselves and put ourselves down and or we can bless ourselves.

I then read this report to them. "Hatzigeorgiadis conducted a meta-analysis of 32 sport psychological studies with a total of 62 measured effects. The research confirmed that self-talk (affirmation) improves sporting performance. But researchers also found that different self-talk cues work differently in different situations.
    Self-talk focuses on positives statements. "I don't skate well if the ice is too hard and 
    brittle, is replaced by, "I have trained under these conditions and I am prepared. 
    Bring it on!"..  The main goals behind techniques similar to self-talk and visualization is to "rehearse a performance or to meditate to improve focus and relaxation", says Hatzigeorgiadis.
     The objective is "To enhance your potential and to perform during competition in terms of your ability and not less", he said.

     Players who are physically more gifted athletes than their competitors may express their frustration that they are beaten by players who they feel are not equal to them
     Often in these cases an athlete's state of mind or beliefs limits their ability to surpass the competition. An athlete's beliefs start to limit their performance when he or she starts thinking negatively in training or practice sessions:
* “I will never be as good as he or she is.” 

* “I could never jump as high as he or she does.”

* “I don't have the speed or quickness as he or she does.”"

We don't have to play tennis to experience the benefits of positive self talk. We should include it in every part of our lives.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

Every day we have a choice are we going to bless ourselves and the people around us. Seeking to focus on the blessings creates a positive impact that can be quantified through  sports psychology studies but more importantly can affect our kids, husbands and everyone God brings into our lives.

Proverbs 14:1 says "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."  We can build up ourselves and our family or we can tear them down.   How do you counteract negative self talk? How you bless others by valuing them?