Disobedience & Disappointment

Then God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.”  1 Samuel 15:10-11

Could there be any sadder words than those spoken by God shortly after having Saul anointed king?  Read the prayer prompt for this morning once again, slowly.  Can you hear the disappointment in God’s voice?  Can you tell how heartsick He is that the one he chose to favor above all the Hebrew nation turned out to be a betrayer?

Are we refusing to do what God tells us to do?

Sometimes we wander through this adventure we’re having with God with little conscious care for the things that matter to Him: Time with us. Intimacy with Him. A love that is proven through obedience. We miss out on divine blessings because of our careless attitudes, and we get God miffed when we “forget” what he told us to do, or worse yet, outright refuse.

1 Samuel 15, reminds us how angry the king’s response to God made the Prophet.  The Bible says Samuel prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night, before going to hunt the king down (vs 11-12 MSG).

Yikes!  I can’t imagine how those prayers must have energized Samuel’s resolve.  How they must have fueled every word he spoke later, when he finally caught up with the king and rebuked him publicly.  I hope I’m never the focus of those kinds of prayers, and I hope you never are either.

Today as we spend some time with God, let’s reaffirm to Him our willingness to do what he asks us to do. Easy, hard, or seemingly impossible, it doesn’t matter.  Where God’s finger points, his hand always makes a way! We have no excuses.  We can obey him! All we need to do it is a little bit of prayer to embolden us and a heart ready to faithfully serve.  Today, let’s exercise both.

When have you been disappointed by a good friend? When have you disobeyed God?

the cure for PES

Have you ever experienced preemptive sorrow?

I’m talking about that phenomenon that occurs when our emotions get ahead of our reality. Preemptive sorrow engages when we think something painful is coming, but has not happened yet.  In a state of preemptive sorrow, our emotions begin to shift before the sad, painful, or heart-wrenching event takes place. We rationalize feeling the way we do about PES by assuring ourselves that the “bad” is coming, it will devastate us, and we need to prepare now for that which will surely overtake us.

Not all people suffer from bouts of preemptive sorrow. Some experience their sadness at the appropriate time.  Worriers, however, always want to be ahead of the curve…be ready…make sure they are prepared for the next shoe to drop.

One of my favorite lines from the famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, comes from the mouth of Atticus Finch, who counsels his children, “It ain’t time to worry yet.  I’ll let you know when.”   Oh, that those who preemptively worry could latch onto the substance of Atticus Finch!  Personally, I think someone in the throws of PES or preemptive anxiety had to have written that line. Who else could have so clearly capsulized what goes on in the head of someone acting before its time?

Jesus said the remedy for preemptive sorrow was focusing on God, and not our circumstances.

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 direct your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… Psalm 23:4

…do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12:29-31

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

Do you tend to be a worrier?  When have you found worry an inadequate method for calming your mind under stress?

 

 

 

 

 

It was a Nasty, Smelly, Rotten habit

 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 3: 18-20

I was blown away when I read the verses shown above in my quiet time today.  It was as if God had one hand on my left shoulder and was peering over my right shoulder in a backward embrace as I read.  A fatherly hug!

It felt like His Spirit was running his holy finger across the page of the Bible, emphasizing each word as he underscored them for my psyche on the page.  Man, oh man, does Papa God know what I need.

“It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it (1 John 3:19).” 

THE NASTY, SMELLING, ROTTEN HABIT

I’m not sure whether I’ve shared this with my readers here before, but I’m someone who’s indulged in self-loathing a time or two…or a lot!  In the past, when I made a mistake, it became in my mind the worst mistake that anyone of my station had ever made, ever.  It totally defined me and made me miserable.

I practiced this overwhelming degree of self-criticism to such an extent that it became an addiction for me.  A nasty, dark, dank, and debilitating addiction, dripping with self-hatred and loathing, and destroying any joy I might have otherwise experienced in this world.

In those days when I was practicing my addicition, I held myself to an unattainable standard, while I made succeeding in life all about me: How much energy I had on a particular day, how much power to negate what I’d done wrong,  and how much of a force field I had humming around me to protect me from myself.  It was awful.

Sometimes there was “something to it,” this need to criticize that I felt I deserved. But there was never a legitimate reason for me treating myself the way I did.

I had no grace for Lori, and today I find that sad.

If you have not been someone prone to self-recrimination, you have no idea what I dealt with on a daily basis with this habit of mine. The fear. The anticipation associated with “screw ups” of the past, and the dread  that they might happen again…the deeply held belief that I would do it again, and that while I might be able to muster forgiveness for others who did likewise, there would be none for me.

SPIRIT CHANGE

I don’t struggle with an addiction to self-criticism anymore.  Today, I have a normal amount of distaste for the mistakes and missteps I make in life. Today, I forgive myself much sooner, love myself through Christ to a deeper degree, and expect only a usual amount of accountability and skilled performance when going about my duties for my Lord.  I’m only human.

Being human, I can’t expect to be perfect.  The belief that I can be is a lie, and not only a lie, but worse than a lie.

I have learned that striving to be perfect is akin to commissioning the carving of a false idol and positioning it in the middle of my backyard.  This beautiful statue would tower over the rest of the garden there, fill the center of it completely and draw the attention of everyone who saw it to its gracefully poised impeccability.

The problem with that plan would be two-fold. 1.  The statue would distract everyone, including me especially, from the marvel of nature that abounds because of God’s touch in our world, and 2. It would stink to high heaven!  Worse than any manure pile you’re ever smelled on a hot July day.  It would have to stink, because it would be a monument to evil.  The nastiest, rottenest, most sensual and beautiful piece of wickedness ever carved by human hands.  That is what perfection is to me now, and what I think of when I remember what I did with God’s beautiful and imperfect being: me.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ENEMY’S LIES

In writing this post, I want to share with my readers my new understanding that self-loathing is just another way for satan to trip us up, keep us from God, and ruin all the beauty He intended for us to enjoy in this life.  The enemy’s lies never lead to joy, but steadily send us in the other direction, until at last we are sitting on a dung pile and hating ourselves with every fiber of our being.

If you have struggled for some time with the idea of perfection and wanting to be its poster child, you know what I mean.  As I’m writing this post, God is reminding me of what Joshua said to the tribes a short time before he left them for that better land God promises all those who truly trust in him.

“…if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”  Joshua 24:15

I’m not longer bowing to perfectionism in my life.  I know the perfect One, and he isn’t me.  Come, Lord Jesus, and help me see you more clearly. Come, Lord Jesus, and help me surrender more fully to You!

Are you someone who has expected perfection from yourself, and been unsatisfied with anything less?  Has this kind of practice made your life harder than it needed to be?

 

Hornets: Gift or Plague?

hornet nest

“The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands.  I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow.  So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”  Joshua 24:11-13

How many of you love hornets, let see a show of hands?

I thought so.  Hornets are the worst!

Every spring they begin again making their papery nests behind our window shutters and under our front porch. Every year we spray to kill as many as we can, and every year they begin again…building, building, building.

As much as they are a nuisance to me and mine, hornets provide a valuable service to God.  They pollinate his gardens, become food sources for his birds (I hear Magpies love them!), and in some cases hornets have been used of God to route armies and ensure victory for his kids.

Hornets serve as valuable tools in the hand of our mighty God!

As I pen this devotional, I’m aware that some of you you might have a few hornets buzzing around your heads.  I say that tongue in cheek, because I’m not really writing about hornets here, but metaphorical hornets; those difficult people in your life that seem to serve no purpose but to plague you.

It might be tempting to think, “If only that one could be removed from my life, everything would be fine.  Oh, how I wish God would take him/her away; far, far away.”

I’ve been there, and I know your pain, but here’s the thing: That hard to handle hornet in your life is there for a reason.  God knows they plague you, and He knows you wish them gone, but he has a purpose for them in your life today.

Today, let’s try to see the hornets in our lives a little differently.

Let’s practice forgiveness.

Let’s thank God for them despite the sting they often inflict, and let’s ask Him to bless them abundantly today.

If we can do that, JUST THAT, even as they continue to cause us pain, we will have achieved something wonderful in our attempts to be more like Jesus.

Our Lord, when crucified said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).”  Your hornets don’t know either. If they did, they wouldn’t make life miserable for the Lord’s anointed.

Today, let’s pray good things for our enemies, for in so doing, we become more exact images of the Lord who blessed us when we, ourselves, were hornets.

 What do you find the hardest part of forgiving?  When have you acted the hornet in someone else’s life?

 

20 ways I could be more like Jesus

This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.  1 John 2:5b-6

Having recently finished up the book of Joshua for my Bible reading and devotional times, I went back to my prayer jar and pulled another tab.  1 John!  I’m excited, and I’m already learning from this teeny, tiny epistle.  Before I share with you my impressions from 1 John, though, I want to briefly comment on Joshua.

Can I say I love the book of Joshua? I do!  There is so much goodness I have gleaned from the story of Moses’ No. 1 right hand guy taking over the leadership of the Hebrew people after his death.  I love, too, that the book begins with a warning to be strong and not fearful, and to take off your shoes, for where you stand is holy ground. When I’m in the Word, I’m treading on holy ground. It was nice to be reminded of that.  It was also nice to be reminded how God worked through Joshua to confront sin, both personally and in his family of origin.  Joshua was one of two guys who believed God as he scoped out the land beyond the Jordan. There were 12 in all, but only Joshua and Caleb came back with confidence in their stride and speech, believing victory could be claimed in God’s Name.  I loved that Caleb is still alive and full of vim and vigor when the land gets divided up among the tribes, finally.  He’s 85 at that point and a self-proclaimed he-man ready to clear the land and defend her against all invaders, foreign or domestic.  What a guy. Shows you what good (God) living can do for a fellar.  Yay, Caleb.

Speaking of what a good living can do for you, I’ll switch over to 1 John and write a lil bit about the challenge I found there.

Whoever claims to live in him [God] must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

Reading that statement in Scripture made me think.  How did Jesus live, and how would my life need to change in order to better reflect how he lived?  Here is the short list of what I came up with after thinking on it for a few minutes. I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions.

If I were to live more like Jesus, I’d have to…

Eat more fish.

Walk more.

Socialize with others more.

Worship more frequently.

Be quiet before God more often.

Always believe.

Forgive, forgive, forgive, holding nothing back.

Embrace controversy.

Be fearless.

Surrender to God more fully.

Give sin no wiggle room in my life.

Listen and obey.

Love on little kids more.

Make time for what matters.

Feed the hungry.

Cloth the needy.

Visit prisoners.

Make life personal.

When hurt, refuse to show it.

Accept what comes, with contentment and grace.

Honestly speaking, I’d have to change a lot about my current way of relating to this world to be more like Jesus.  My two biggest hurdles would be accepting what comes with contentment and grace, and visiting prisoners more. I don’t think I’ve done the former often enough, and I’ve never done the later.

What would you add to the Live-More-Like-Jesus Checklist above?  Where are you excelling in this discipline, and where are you falling flat on your face, and/or need to improve?

 

Outside the City

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.  Hebrews 13:11-14

The same God who guides the stars in their courses, who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun and keeps the stars perpetually burning with their fires—the same God has promised to supply thy strength.  –CS Lewis

A friend of mine recently commented on the fact that people aren’t the least bit shy asking others deeply personal questions about whether or not they breast feed their babies, or whether or not their sons are circumcised, but let the conversation turn to Jesus and you can hear a pin drop in the room.  A sense of discomfort settles over the circle, and people who were once chatty either leave the area or change the subject.  Why is that?

Is this reaction to God’s children part and parcel of us bearing the disgrace Jesus bore; our stories about him being a taboo topic for conversation?

Is it us, joining Jesus outside the camp, metaphorically sitting with Him in his suffering because the “city” has closed the gates to us?

Rejection may be a reality for the disciples of Christ, but so is joy!

Here’s the difference between us and the city dwellers: People on the fringe talk freely about Jesus. They share stories about how knowing Him has made a difference in their lives.  They challenge one another to dig deeper into God’s Word so that they might be able to speak about spiritual matters with any who venture outside of the city to join the camp of rejects.

Out on the edge of acceptability, Jesus-followers live rich lives, but the city-dwellers would never know it. To them, we are despised, disgusting, and something to be avoided.

Today, let’s thank God that we are people of the outer camp.  Corrie Ten Boom in her book, The Hiding Place, talked about how an infestation of flees in the Nazi war camps kept the guards far away from those who ministered to the persecuted and those marked for death.  Corrie praised God that she lived with flees outside the “city limits,” for she knew that being despised by the masses meant she could serve Christ, unhampered by the guards.

Today, we can be grateful for being outside the city, too.  All that really matters to us is that we are where our King Jesus is, amen?!

Do you regularly discuss your faith and Jesus with unbelievers?  What is the hardest part of witnessing for you?

So you struggle with Meditation? Me, too!

I know many people struggle with meditation. Knowing what it is. Understanding how it works.  Getting on board with it every day.

I used to struggle with it, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew how to pray; my life circumstances taught me how to ask for things from God. I knew what my needs were, and I don’t think I was ever afraid to ask for them to be met; but to be quiet in order to listen and receive from God (when active talking and sharing by people was not going on), that I found to be incredibly hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m a pretty good listener when it comes to family and friends, so why was I having so much trouble hearing God?

Below, is a chronicle of my journey to better meditative times with God. I hope writing about this topic helps those of you who struggle with your own ability to hear Him.

Know this before you read further:  The One who loves you endlessly, yearns to spend more time with you today!

First, let me say that I’ve learned how effective writing can be for me in finding satisfaction in my meditation times.  Writing, I can do! Writing is my passion, so reading the sacred texts and then writing what I discover in them has been as natural a practice for me as breathing is for others.  I know not everyone loves to write, but almost everyone can write, and even if what you write is no more than one-liners about your time with God, I encourage you to write more to boost your meditation satisfaction.

Next, I will tell you that I attend a program for eating disorders, and have done so for many years. This program helped me to lose 100 lbs and keep 85 of that number off my body for more than 15 years.  I am not where I want to be with my weight (is anyone, ever?), but I am a whole lot further along the path to healthy than I was before program.  The program I attend has taught me how to reach out to the God of my understanding and gain insight and hope from Him in order to change my life.  It works when I work it!

Last September,  I added to my other program, The Healing Journey Class.  THJ is where I learned to journal my Significant Thoughts.  After reading God’s Word, and letting it soak into my soul, I almost always come away from it with a few central thoughts in mind.  TJH taught me how to focus that down to one significant thought.  It taught me to ask the question: What one thing is God trying to communicate to me in this reading?  Less is more in my opinion, so being taught by how to focus on one significant  thought has worked wonderfully for me!

Finally, and most recently, I’ve been introduced to the Two-Way Prayer method for meditating.  It has revolutionized my prayer and Scripture reading times.  It has brought God’s voice closer to me and increased my intimacy with Him more than anything I’ve done in a long, long time.

As I begin to receive God’s response to me in my meditation sessions, I begin my writing with a loving salutation, like “Dear One,” or “My Child…” This gets me going in a loving direction from the start.  I’m amazed and awed by what I’ve heard from God in my meditation moments since employing this method.

Each time I meditate using the Two-Way Prayer method, I find I feel closer to God. Like He’s right there in the writing with me, speaking to me like a true and intimate friend, guiding my thoughts and revealing more of Himself with every session I enter into.  I love this new and exciting way of meditating.  Maybe you will love it, too.

I believe that God wants to speak to this generation, but with all the electronics we have hanging off us continually, and with all the opportunities this busy world provides to drown out God’s voice, it’s hard to hear Him.  Therefore, any attempt we can make to hear the Lord more clearly and be guided by Him more precisely is a good, good thing.

Today, I have a more fulfilling life as a Christian because of taking time to be with God, opening His Bible daily, attending a recovery program that specifically addresses my problem areas,  signing up for The Healing Journey classes, and incorporating the Two-Way Prayer method on a regular basis.  These are what help me to hear God better and respond to Him in more appropriate ways.  Maybe one or all of them could help you, too.  Why not try and see?

God is waiting to fill you with hope and understanding. Will you allow Him to do it today?

Is the time you spend with God a fulfilling time, or is it a time of struggle for you?  What method have you used  for increasing your intimacy with God?

This is WAR!

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? James 4:1

…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12

Have you experienced days when you felt like you were front and center on the battlefield of life? Me, too.

I can remember when my kiddos were tadpoles; how hard it was to get them up and dressed on Sunday mornings. I didn’t like being the last family in the door at church, so I tried just about everything I could think of to change their habit for Sunday morning shuffling. As a young mom, I looked for the answer to all this Sunday morning confusion in books, speakers, child-rearing videos, and finally by pleading with the Lord for some kind of a solution. This felt like spiritual warfare to me!

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power!!!

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ve got to know we have a target on our backs! We have an enemy, and we have a sin nature. We have hopes and dreams that aren’t always so holy, and we have tongues and mouths that get us into trouble quicker than you  can say, “Jack Flash!” Speaking from our honest place, we will confess to battles being waged inside and outside, upsides, and downsides, with never-ending confusion. It’s enough to make a young mom cry.

The saving grace for us is knowing that we are 1. Not alone, 2. Equipped with a divine defense mechanism in our God-given armor, and 3. Able to push back the forces of evil on our knees, crying out to God.

Today, if you’re reeling from the sulfurous stink of the enemy breathing down your neck, don’t try to battle him alone. Don’t punch, don’t kick don’t whine, and don’t wait. Drop to your knees and pray, pray, pray for God’s protection, provision, and most of all, His power to take that bad boy down.

Our Defender and Champion is always only a prayer away.

What kind of struggles going on in your life have you convinced that there is a battle waging for your soul?  How constant are you in prayer for yourself and your family?

The Bar of Common Sense

At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad; but bring them to the bar of faith, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God…We act like pagans in a crisis, only one out of a crowd is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God.  –Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

I was recently celebrating my birthday with a friend, and we were swapping stories and doing what we women are wont to do with our friends when she made a statement about being called to do something by Jesus that others could not understand.

Her father thought she was loony.

Her mother thought her daft.

Her children were scared to death.

Even my friend was terrified for what it might mean for her and her family to follow Jesus, unwaveringly.  What might He have in store for her?

How might her life change?

What terrible fate awaited her, trusting Jesus as she had decided she must?

The devil often uses fear and the threat of losing our easy life to dissuade us from following Jesus!

How many times might we confess to having similar feelings to that of my friend when being asked to trust Jesus?  Fear, rationalization, the voices of the many—they all work together to make us either doubt we have heard God correctly, or doubt that He can take care of us in our need.

Doubt is the enemy’s stock in trade.  He uses it so many times against us, because it’s worked so many times against us. 

Today, let’s put the kibosh on fear!

Let’s tell the “worries” and “what ifs” that they are not welcome at our house any more.

Let’s take the doubts and the memories of past failures, and fling them into the deepest seas.

Today, let’s make a conscious decision to trust fully the One who knows us best.

Today, let’s risk what we have, to have what He gives.

With Jesus, nothing is impossible, and with God empowering us, there is nothing we cannot do.

Let’s bring our fears to the bar of faith today.  Together, we can do what we could never do alone–together, we and Jesus!!!

What have you been afraid of doing, even though you persistently hear God challenging you to do it?  What is holding you back?

It’s gonna be okay!

The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.  Joshua 9:18-19

Have you ever been conned?  Ever taken in by a lie?  Ever deceived into protecting someone who you shouldn’t have been protecting?

Maybe you’ve hurt someone with your decision when you believed your decision was rock solid, to find after the fact that you didn’t have all the facts.  Oh, me, too!  It stinks!

Regrettably, being a believer doesn’t shield you from these kinds of experiences.

Lesson learned!

I’ve also learned that as believers, we need to check-in with God before we make any decision, and when we check in, we need to be sure that we are as neutral in our thinking as possible.  We need to go to God with minds that are clean slates, open to His ways–ready to embrace his methods of doing, guiding and leading. We need to let go of preconceived notions about what is right and proper, because we don’t know everything there is to know about everything. Not knowing puts us in a compromised position.

When we go to God for advice, we need to let God speak, and we need to be willing to do what He tells us to do. Period.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Did I hear an Amen to that?!

Here’s the thing:  We are not always close enough to God to hear Him when he whispers out his warnings, and sad are we when we have not heard, for it is then that bad things happen.

Joshua 9 is the story of deception and intrigue among nations. I love the tale, because it makes clear to me that even a mighty warrior like Joshua had trouble, sometimes, knowing who to help and who to pass by.  In the third through thirteenth verses of chapter 9, we see a major spy campaign taking place. One that leans heavily on trickery, and seeks to see Joshua undone.

Here, Joshua missteps.

Here, Joshua is taken in by a con-man.

The results are regrettable!

The Good News in this story, though—and folks, there is ALWAYS good news where God is concerned–is that Joshua’s mistake is not a doom-sealer.  It’s not the end of life as it could have been for Israel. It’s not even all that horrible.  Why? Because, God!  God was in the mix and He’d taken charge of Israel.  He’d decided to be their Power, Protector, and Provision in this strange and scary land He’d given to them.

With God, good things happen!

I’m not going to tell you the end of the story for Joshua and the fighting Hebrews.  You’ll have to find a Bible and find the book of Joshua, and read it for yourself.  I could never do justice to what God has already provided in His Word, so I’m not going to try.  Go, seek, find. You’ll be glad you did. Then circle back around and leave a one-word comment on this blog post. One word that struck you as significant as you read through Joshua 9?  Inquiring minds want to know what your one word would be.

Remember, I’ll be waiting!!! What is your ONE-word SIGNIFICANT thought?

When has God been your Power in a time of need? When has He been your Protector?

ps: you can leave more than a one-word comment if you want.  I take two, three, and ever four word comments all the time on my blog! 😉