Modeling

Funny how we all ‘see’ things differently – especially those under five. Grown-ups see from experience. Little ones, with a mere few years, tend to be more literal and view life and circumstances only from a concrete view.

Recently cousins 2, 3, and 5 years old spent some time together. Oldest does get that hitting hurts – youngest no clue that crashing his car into his cousin brings tears. But what I’ve observed is: a lot is expected the older you get – but not a lot of grace is given when considering five years doesn’t add up to a whole lot of experience.

I’ve also observed that even when we do get bigger, grace given to another is often a foreign concept. We seem to expect everyone to act and think like we do. And when they don’t, they’re wrong – we’re right. Yet only one person has ever lived who has the right to expect we should act and think like they do. And Jesus was the biggest grace-giver of all. “From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 BSB)

Perhaps grace is a concept so lost today, it is why we find ourselves with all the heartaches and woes going on in our world. Maybe it should be revived. Perhaps we should begin to model it for our children, spouses, friends, co-workers, those who cut us off driving, those who say bad things about us, those who wrong us.

Why not? Isn’t that what Jesus did? When mocked, beaten, crucified: “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ ” (Luke 22:34a NIV)

Hmm, a whole lot easier said than done. Time to admit we all have a long way to go with living out grace. Yes, we are a life-long work in progress. But progress pleases God. He’s given us ultimate grace: complete forgiveness for every shortcoming, every sinful act.

Here’s why God sent Messiah to us: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17 CSB) During His three years of ministry more souls were saved by grace than by any miracle witnessed. And in the centuries since, every follower is amazed by grace, for we all know what our hearts are capable of.

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8 NLT) If we model it for all to see, perhaps there will be a little less strife in our days and a few more who want to know Christ.

Be Quiet

Quiet, very few days are quiet around here (especially lately with some major tree trimming). The sky is clear blue and a soft breeze tickles limbs with green shoots appearing. In Florida, spring is underway.

A theme I find in various places throughout the Bible is: quiet. God calling the prophets to ‘listen or hear’, David in the sanctuary communing with God, Jesus rising early before the noise of the day to talk with the Father.

When you have children in the house, quiet is seldom found. When rushing off to work is how the days tumble into each other, quiet is often illusive. Still, the example of the Savior: “Very early the next morning before daylight, Jesus got up and went to a place where He could be alone and pray.” (Mark 1:35 CEV)

I’m able to do that these days – early, just before dawn. I wasn’t always able to – and sometimes didn’t want to leave the comfort of a few more minutes of sleep. But if we’re truthful, all of us from the mom with three under the age of four, to those who early commute to work – can find five minutes at some point to shut the door and sit with God.

At one point during Jesus’ ministry on earth, He gathered His disciples and sent them out in twos to preach the good news and to bring healing to many. When they returned and told Him all they had been able to accomplish, more and more people came to them. But Jesus knew what they all needed: “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31b NIV)

There’s an open invitation to us from the Savior to do the same thing with God every day, every moment. Through His sacrifice for us, He made a way for us to – at any given time – ‘come away to a quiet place and find rest’.

David, who knew a lot about sheep, and probably saw similarities in us humans, penned the most famous Psalm of all. The first three verses are how a shepherd cares for his sheep. Sheep that are not calm cause themselves much trouble. They worry themselves and injure themselves.

Yes, we are like sheep then. But our Shepherd, our Messiah, does the same for us as David the shepherd did for his sheep: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3a NIV) Be quiet – you need His rest.

Least Expecteds

My oldest grandson has always been the most somber of the group. When he was little, and something would happen he would say: “Wasn’t expecting that.” Like much of life, right?

I think we wish there would be lots of warning, or at least a quick heads-up. Funny, us humans, even when we get a sneak preview, we’re still caught off guard. Jonah was told by the Lord to go to Nineveh, to talk to the people about sin and God. Jonah, who had a very low opinion of the Ninevites, said no way and ran the opposite direction.

Wasn’t long before he was on the road to Nineveh as God has a way of directing where he wants us. So, Jonah does what he’s told. And, great news, the people took his words to heart and changed their ways. Not the end of the story. You see, Jonah didn’t think they deserved a chance, so he threw a big pity party. “Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” (Jonah 4:3 NLT)

That’s us. We pray for a loved one’s salvation. But when the drunk driver gets clean and finds Jesus, we think: ‘Why him? He hit my friend’s car and turned her life upside down.’ Pity party. Not waiting to see if perhaps this is what God will use to bring her to Christ as well.

You see, Jonah wasn’t expecting the results that God knew would happen. In his self-righteousness, he even thought he knew better than God. When the unexpected happened, he let his judgement dictate his response. The Bible and life are full of ‘least expecteds’.

I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t want advance notice of the car wreck, the diagnosis, the job termination. We would run the other way, do things our way, and make a mess. It’s the history of the human race. We take things into our hands, we pass judgement, we try to control.

But each of our ‘least expecteds’ are life lessons that help us, should we choose to trust God, with the next event.

In the middle of the book of Romans Paul tells us how to live at all times. The good ones, the bad ones, and the oh no, what’s happening ones. Two key verses: “Do not be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV)

Paul would have had much to share with Jonah. Jonah, like us, learns the hard way. But God’s ways are better than ours. His results always show the way – to life well lived, for the better of others, and straight to eternity. Joy, hope, patience, faith, prayer – serve the Lord. He’s got this.

Planner

Sometimes things don’t go according to MY plan. How about you? I’m a planner – details, times, etc. I’m thinking that may be the problem (grin).

That’s called control. Well, for me, it’s sanity. But others, and this world, don’t seem to think my plan is always best. Some interesting learning lately about trusting God in the midst of plans gone awry.

Recently a winter getaway for a week started off with a trip to urgent care for my hubby and a late start on our drive. At first I fretted. As I sat in the car wondering if we should just stay home, instead of my mind trying to figure out all the what-ifs, I decided I could be content in seeing how the day unfolded. “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130 NIV)

With a late start we headed out. About half-way there winter blue skies caught our attention. Looking up we noticed a perfect cross was formed by intersecting vapor trails and clouds. It stayed ahead of us in the sky for most of the next hour. Jesus leading the way.

I have no idea why it was important that we leave five hours later than we planned. But I do know this: God’s glory and our good are always His plan. “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:6 NIV)

And every trial and triumph we live has purpose. Will we always see it? Will we understand? Not often. Life is lived in Christ by faith, not by sight.

From the vantage point of still getting to take a road trip, faith is easier. But the point in so many of life’s ups and downs is preparation. For there will be times when we can’t see any glory or good. Times that leave us wishing for the comfort of yesterday’s innocence.

It’s in those times all the ‘befores’ that have tried us, remind us that God never leaves us. A Bible full of life’s good days and bad years reminds us of His care in all things at all times. We’re each an unfolding story of God’s grace, mercy, and glory. We don’t write the story – the beginning is His breath of life, the in-between is His plan and purpose, and the end is really just the beginning for every Jesus follower.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:8 BSB)

What time is it

It’s time, I feel it deep in my soul. Do you feel it too? Time to leave behind the trappings of all that holds us back. Instead hold only to that which matters: the Savior (for He never let’s us go), those we hold close (near or far), and to eternity (which has already begun for His beloved).

More of each day spent worshiping and praising, less spent chasing and fretting. Time to make sure no doubt remains as to whose we are: we are the children of the Most High God. Time also to remind our dear ones of this truth.

This hurting world will never stop hurting; no better time to gather as many as we can into His presence. For He is good and nothing here compares. “Whom have I in heaven but You? And on earth I desire no one besides You.” (Psalm 73:25 BSB)

In Psalm 73 the writer tells of his weariness of seeing wicked people prevail and seemingly have the easy life. He lifted his complaint towards God recounting all the evil around him. Then comes a turning point when he undoubtedly remembers his own shortcomings.

“Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and later receive me in glory.” (Psalm 73:23-24 BSB)

We must draw the same conclusion that the Psalmist did. As He lifted up his final words to God, He brought everything full circle. All that seems so important pales in comparison to what is true. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 BSB)

We witness daily all the things he wrote of long ago, only we observe it on a global scale he couldn’t have imagined. We fuss and fret wondering why God doesn’t end it all. Until His perfect timing comes to make all things new, we are tasked with telling the story.

But as for me, it is good to draw near to God. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may proclaim all Your works.” (Psalm 73:28 BSB) What time is it? Time to tell of Jesus and His great love.

What are you saying

Amazing that we, mere humans, have words to share. Volumes overflowing have been written, songs sung, speeches given. To us alone, God has given the gift of speech, language.

There are lots of unworthy words uttered every second. Expressing thoughts, with no regard for the Author of words, many speak from their oh so finite minds. Unable to see that all their lofty words are but gibberish for they have no foundation other than their own frailties.

But out of the mouths of children come some of the most profound and worthy words. Little hearts and minds, not so caught up in themselves yet, express truth and life and joy. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told us: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16b-17 NLT)

Do any of us remember what it was like to be a child? To have wonder but also…trust. To see with vision that isn’t disillusioned. Truly five and under must be a marvelous time. So ready to learn, yet not have to know it all or have any biases. To not desire glory for self but to attribute it quickly and willingly to another.

My grandsons think the crazy ideas I come up with are monumental – worthy of hugs and high fives. Why don’t we have this reaction to sunrises, volcanos coming up out of the ocean unexpectedly, a Savior stretching His arms out in surrender of His life, so we can have a forever?

Ever notice that when we most need words, we are at a loss for them? A friend’s divorce, a loved one’s diagnosis, a widow’s grief. No human words will do. Yet in those moments, words from the Bible give hope. Reminders that this is not all there is. That miracles still happen. And even if this bad thing does play out as expected, God still has a plan.

To be honest, many of the words that proceed from my mouth are not worth repeating. “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36 NIV) Ugh, that adds up to a lot of words for most of us.

So then how can we reign in our tongues? It starts with our hearts. Jesus said out of the overflow of our heart, our mouth speaks. Recently one grandson was in the shopping cart singing – softly at first, then louder and louder “It’s me, it’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer”. He had heard VeggieTales in the car. We will never know who in the grocery store needed to hear the innocent words offered by a little one. What a different world it would be if words that pointed others to God were heard more often.

Trust Me?

In our everyday there are a lot of reasons we don’t trust. So many scams, so much hate, so little honesty, so little love. Who, what can we trust?

Sadly, sometimes the ability to trust others is lost at a young age. Sometimes, maybe not so tragic, but just as hard is betrayal in a relationship or business dealing. A lifetime of seeing or experiencing let-downs makes us wary and weary.

Too often it translates into our relationship with God. Oh yes, we believe He is powerful, good, loving, merciful – and yes, we trust Him. It’s just that the thing we’ve been praying for hasn’t happened, the disease we were praying against is causing sleepless nights, the unexpected loss makes us question. As this father said: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b NLT)

From a book by Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, here is a sobering quote: “…when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness.”

Hmmm, that’s not where we want to be, but sometimes even when we feel we are trusting with all our heart, there can be a deceiving voice: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ “ (Genesis 3:1b BSB)

Whether we’re victims of past let downs, or the enemy is trying to make us doubt, or we are going through something hard – God has not abandoned us at any point. A world broken by sin is bound to bring pain in one way or another. We need to have an anchor to keep us from getting lost in the sea of doubt.

It becomes a heart choice, one that needs to be strengthened daily. A choice to know that this world is broken. That someday all that is wrong will be replaced with an eternity of no more hurts. In the meantime, only a daily immersion into the Bible and constant communication in prayer will keep us on course.

It’s impossible in a few paragraphs to capture the essence of trusting God. Truth is, God knows this is hard for us. He longs for us to rest in Him and find His peace. He sees the big picture; we walk with just enough light for the next step. Hold His hand, He will hold your soul. “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark.” (John 12:46 NLT)

I Remember

Ever fill out one of those surveys that asks: do you feel the amount of information available via the internet is too much, just enough, not enough? ‘Too much’ is the answer every time. Our brains have great capacity, but seriously, a myriad of ways to cook chicken – make play dough – recycle toilet paper tubes?

How about trying to share with a friend information you found out about a particular topic? “Yeah, so I was listening to, ummm, can’t remember where I saw it, but they said…” Not only are we bombarded with ‘information’ – we’re trying to remember simple stuff and important stuff, like where the car keys are and our child’s birth date.

So, when confronted with the thought of remembering all Jesus has taught us in the Bible, and the wealth of words on those pages, it seems a bit daunting. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV)

That’s a relief. And He does. Lately when I work on memorizing passages in the Bible and then try to see if I can recall them, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me. He can also help us push out of memory things we wish weren’t crowding our thoughts. That’s a relief too!

Someday we will have minds that are able to learn and create and discover and not grow weary with overload. Love this verse: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1Corinthians 2:9b NLT)

In a recent rough time I went through with doubt and worry and anxiety, turned out the one thing that got me out of the darkness was not a friend or loved one, not a song or some good news, it was the remembrance of words that are timeless. Words written millennia ago but as meaningful and helpful as though they were written this moment just for me.

Next time we’re in information overload, stressed out, doubting, grieving, hurting, whatever the moment is holding, remember, our Help is right there with us waiting for us to ask. We’ll find our heart saying to our soul: ‘I remember now’.

“My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart.” (Proverbs 3:1 NLT)

On Anxiety

Maybe you, like me, have experienced those moments. The ones where deep breaths seem illusive. That feeling like something’s wrong – but what? Or anything?

In the world we’re living in maybe it’s not as rare as I think. But it’s not good for us. It’s a stress signal – and stress is not our friend. No solutions here – just a bit of compassion and a few ideas. How about some peace to replace the nerves?

It’s not going to come from ourselves. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be anxious in the first place, right? This is a journey of not only being a disciple of Jesus, but a truster of Him. Do we trust God to be God in our lives? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

I’m coming off a morning of frustration with health. A morning of deep breaths and deep doubt. Not in God, but in my ability let go of control. To know that I’m a healthy person and though the last few months have had ups and downs, it’s not forever.

That’s when reaching out comes into play. We have to overcome being embarrassed to admit we need a listening ear, a heartfelt prayer, basically some Jesus with skin on. We can be that for each other. The Holy Spirit is in us, we are light in this dark world. Let’s allow the light of a fellow believer to make the darkness recede. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT)

Still, a prayer warrior is not all we need. We need to immerse ourselves in heavenly help. Making the time to stop and search out the Father. ‘God, help’ – may be all we get out, but we’re headed in the right direction.

Making time to not only have regular time in the Word (start if you don’t already do this) – but amid the anxiety attack to have resources at our fingertips that point us to the Bible. Topical or inspirational. Music of praise and worship. Memorized Scripture (ahh, that one is super important).

There’s no quick fix. But I’m all in for relief even in baby steps. How about you? Can we decide to be obedient to the wise words of Jesus and the apostles? Those that say: ‘do not worry – about anything’, ‘seek His kingdom first’, ‘be still and KNOW that I Am God’ – and so many more jewels we need to unearth daily.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT)

Oh My Word

Do you ever use this phrase: Oh, my word! It’s a whole lot better than a lot of expressions out there. Yet today, it took on new meaning. Recently I was encouraged to come up with ‘my word for the year’. I’ve done that in the past and was glad for the reminder. It does make an impact.

I’ve had words like grace, kindness, etc. I’m still pondering this year’s word. Jesus, is always the best inspiration. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NLT)

But why even choose a word for the year?

I’ve found it brings focus. For instance, when my word was kindness, my goal was to be more careful with what passed out of my lips. Even though I might not be overtly rude or unkind, I can be abrupt or matter of fact. And that can come across as unkind. (Still a work in progress, but better.)

When something comes into focus it means we see it more clearly. Like a light when the room is dark or directions when we’re not sure of the way. John 1:4 NLT says: “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.”

As I walked a trail recently it was late in the day, lots of shadows. I was being careful, trying to be watchful. Even so, the shadows and sand on the path obscured a tree root and I stubbed my toe so hard it almost took my breath away. Minor in the big scope of things but painful at the time.

Life can be challenging – in more ways than one. Anything that makes our days easier or more bearable or more productive sounds good to me. I think having a focus, the Light showing the way and making the path a lot more visible, helps.

So, as we ponder our ‘word’, look forward to life’s ups and downs, and try to miss the hidden tree roots – maybe turning to Messiah will save us a lot of heartache (and maybe a stubbed toe or two). “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” (1John 1:5, 14a NLT)

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