Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making Time vs Finding Time

I'm 19 days into my 40 days of prayer journey. For the past 19 days I have met at my church - everyday - with a small group of friends. All we do is pray for our community as we walk around the civic center. It's amazing how each night my prayers lead in a different direction. There is truly a lot to pray for, but that is for another blog.

What has really impressed me about these last 19 days is that every day I have chosen to stop whatever else I was doing and be at my church at 6pm - tired, busy, rain or shine, even on Halloween.

All too often I find myself saying I can't find time to do what I want. I suddenly realized that I must chose to MAKE TIME for God. I make time to shower everyday. I make time to go to work everyday. I make time to eat 3 meals a day. I make time to do all these things and many others because I know if I don't that there will be consequences.

What do you need to make time for in your life?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The More I, The Less You

Ahhhh, Facebook.

I hope not to offend anyone with this, but it's what I believe and I mean it in the nicest possible way. I think you will understand. The more you post on FB, the less likely people are to read your posts. Anyone else agree?

Ok, now take that same idea and roll it over to your words. The more you talk, the less likely people are to listen. I love both of these verses:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

God help me when I have diarrhea of the mouth. Help me to speak only those words that are beneficial and purposed according to Your will.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


My family plays a car game we refer to as "Zitch Cop." The rules are simple: (1) More than one person must be in the car, and (2) The first person to say "Zitch Cop" when he/she sees a police officer gets a point.

My friend let me borrower her car, and today when we got inside of it, my son asked if we could play Zitch Cop in it. I told him, "Yes, it's not about what car we're in. It's about us being together."

Then it struck me - this is the way the church is. It's not about the building, the location, or even the activity. Whenever God' people are together, we're having church.

As time has progressed my kids want to add more and more rules. Isn't it funny how most people say they hate rules yet tend to make up more rules than necessary? Again, it's the same with our faith.

In Jesus' day the Jews suffered through this same dilemma as they tried to honor the law. But that which began as 10 commandments had become hundreds, even thousands of laws, and with far reaching implications. So it's no surprise to read in Matthew 22:36-40 when one day Jesus had the following encounter:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That makes it pretty easy, doesn't it? Let's keep it simple today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chinese Handcuffs

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26, NKJ)

A few weeks ago, my family and I attended a birthday party. When we left, the kids were given generous goody-bags filled with all kinds of toys. There was one toy that the kids were most intrigued by, the Chinese Handcuffs (aka Chinese Finger Trap). The longer they studied the toy, the less they understood it. If you have kids you know that studying a toy is not sufficient, eventually they had to put their fingers in it. The toy suddenly became a source of frustrations. They couldn't understand why, if they wanted to pull their fingers out, would they push them in?

As I watched my children, I realized life is the same way sometimes. We find our selves doing what we can to "take control" of our lives, and end up no better off than my children in the finger trap - frustrated, confused, and quickly reaching their limits. We may even laugh at the folly of others and then fall into the same trap.

Yet, Jesus offers us a solution - lose your life for Him, and you will truly find it. And like my kids, I don't think we can really believe this until we actually do it and see that it works. So... what's stopping you?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Delight in the Law

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. (Psalm 112:1)
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (Romans 7:21-23, NIV)

There are a lot of things I delight in - a new achievement, the love of my spouse, a compliment from a friend, seeing my children make a good decision - but I can't say I've often found myself delighting in a law or command. Over the last two years we've seen about a half dozen major regulatory changes in the lending industry. Each one met with a groan, and the a question of how the ideals of government would meet the practicality of the workplace. Then, almost begrudgingly, we trudge through... because we must, and for no other reason.

Yet the psalmist knew that the person who finds delight in God's commands would be blessed. Why?

First of all, the commands God gives us are for our own protection. God tells us to not lie, steal, covet, etc because He wants to lift our burdens. He knows there are earthly consequences to our actions. We clearly understand consequences: if you murder, you will go to jail. Anyone want to object? Yet, many times we fool ourselves into believing there will be no consequences if I ___ (lie? cheat? covet? ignore that person in need?).

Secondly, God doesn't want us living life thinking about all the things we can't do. He wants us to celebrate the life He has given us and rejoice in the love He has shown us. He wants to be our focus, not the sin we are trying to avoid (because, after all, if you're focusing on a sin - even if you're not doing it - you're not avoiding it... duh!).

With these ideas in mind, re-read a portion of the Old Testament. Does it seem a little different? Now, go about your life, and make it different too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Price I Couldn't Pay

I recently made a mistake that cost almost $2,000. Not one of my finest hours, but it was truly a mistake - something I didn't plan on and would have avoided if at all possible. Accidents happen, but I felt horrible and apologized to the person who was shorted that money. I told him I'd repay him if I could, but it wasn't possible right now, and I wanted to find a way. His response was unexpected and such a relief - he forgave me and expected nothing more from me. My debt had been forgiven.

His kindness was a reminder of my greater debt that was settled:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Thank you, Jesus, for paying a debt that I couldn't pay.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Equipment vs Equipping

It's not every day that I get to say God revealed something new to me. After having been raised in a Christian home, attending a Christian college, and working at my church for several years I am fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of different aspects of my faith. Thank God! And while I know I don't know everything - I'll even be the first to admit I don't even know most of it - it's not very often that I have a brand new thought I have never heard before. But, that is just what happened to me a short while ago.

Our church was having their annual ladies' retreat. On the first night, before I went to sleep, I opened my Bible to Colossians 1:9-14 and read:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Wow, that's a powerful prayer! What I realized is that all these years I have been praying for the wrong thing. Look again at what he is asking for. The list includes a lot of verbs (you remember, ACTION words). He didn't ask God to give them fruit, he asked that they bear fruit. He didn't ask that they be imparted with wisdom, but rather that they grow in knowledge. He didn't ask for miraculous strength, but that they be strengthened. And why? So they may have endurance, patience, and be able to joyfully giving thanks to God.

I know that God appreciates our prayers and He understands our intentions despite what we're saying, in much the same way that I enjoy talking to my two young sons. I love when they ask me for help or share a thought with me. But isn't there something more? Absolutely! One of the best parts of parenting is developing a deeper relationship with your kids and this includes communication. When Josiah first started to talk he couldn't say more than a few words and they were often wrong (well intentioned, but wrong). There were a few months when he called me Daddy. I was just so glad he called me anything that it didn't matter. If he still called me Daddy today, it might not be as cute. So what's my point?

God loves to hear from His children, but I think He's desiring deeper conversation. If we model our prayer after what we read in Colossians 1 we will shift from asking for equipment to asking for equipping. What's the distinction? A runner might need new equipment from time to time (shoes, water bottle, pants) but if they are not equipped to run the race it is useless.

Dear God, forgive me for all the times I asked for the stuff that I thought would make me a better Christian. Please help me to grow close to You so that I am prepared to handle what comes my way in life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Giving up...

If you give up when trouble comes, it shows that you are weak. (Proverb 24:10, NCV)

I can honestly say for the first time since Lent started I honestly feel like giving up - and with just 9 days until Easter there is only one word for this: stupid. Why can I only get so far in my efforts? It always seems that self-defeat sneaks in right at the worst time. Perhaps this is my weakness.

Maybe this is nothing more than the reason why we have sayings like, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." I need to get going.

But practically, how do we actually do it? How does victory become a reality? If I can't succeed at something as foolish as not going on Facebook, then how do I expect to succeed at anything that is actually important in my life?

...To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10, NLT)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Strengthening My Core

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)

About four months ago I was seeing a chiropractor semi-regularly for some pain in my back. Her recommendation was very clear and very simple: I needed to strengthen my core. She suggested a few exercises and even suggested a book that I could refer to for some additional ideas. I went out immediately and bought the book, and that night I did my exercises. And for the course of my treatment with her I was doing pretty well. Unfortunately, when I stopped seeing her regularly, so my exercises stopped. Fast forward to today.

About a week ago, my knee started hurting so today I saw an orthopedist. he took xrays and examined how my knee moved. Fortunately nothing is broken or torn, but that doesn't make the pain go away. His suggestion? No joke: I need to strengthen my core. This time it came with a warning that if I don't strengthen my core now, I will cause serious damage to my knee.

So, I began thinking, if only I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, I'd probably be fine right now. Why do we know what we're supposed to do, and not do it? Why is it so easy to fall into the foolishness that Jesus warns us about in Matthew 7? In my physical life and in my spiritual life, I know what I need to do. I just can't manage to strengthen my core.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Faith and Deeds

We're spending the weekend in San Diego, with John's cousin and her family. From the freeway, you take the main road east to the last housing development before the lake. When I mentioned that I wanted to take a walk/run, they told me to take the path which would lead me down a ways with a great view of the lake. Sounded good to me, and true to their description I saw a beautiful lake, mountains in the distance, a great park, animals... It was very peaceful. When I got to the end of the path, I noticed that I was on a street which would lead me back to their home. So, I took the street back to where I started; it seemed more interesting than just turning around and walking the path again.

The next day when I walked again, I decided to walk down the street first, and then take the path back. I thought it would be nicer that way, so that I could save the gorgeous views of the lake for the second half of my journey. I was surprised to find that this time I hardly noticed the lake because of the angle of the path. Though it was there, I gave it significantly less attention than I had the day before. Was the lake any less beautiful? No, but the homes seemed more noticable and it was an effort to watch the lake.

I found it very interesting to realize that both the path and the street were the same journey. It seemed strange that the exact same walk had such a different emphasis.

In the same way, I began thinking about James 2, where we read about the expression of our faith and how that goes together with the good deeds we do. They are opposite sides of the same coin, but it seems that perhaps the method we chose has to do with how we start our journey. Those who are taught the importance of loving and worshipping God ("admiring the beauty of the lake") often miss the practicallity of life around them ("the cars along the street, and the people living their lives out of their homes"), and vice versa.

We must learn to find a way to live in balance, to both worship God for who He is and serve our fellow man as an expression of that love. One without the other is incomplete.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Avalanche of Sin

I was reading about David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) last night. It really is quite a fascinating story, and an excellent case study on sin. I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that EVERYONE knows that what David did was wrong - even David himself knew it (see 2 Samuel 12). Yet, we read of David doing what so many of us seem to do - planting one sin and harvesting a crop of evil. To try to cover up his sin David lied, murdered, and hurt many people. To think all of this could have been avoided if David had only done what he was supposed to do - work. His job as king was to lead his people to war in the spring, as was customary for them. But for whatever reason, David did not fulfill his obligation. And in his boredom, he went to the roof top... and so it began.

I was just reading up (thank you Wikipedia) on avalanches. It seems as though it takes a very particular situation for an avalanche to occur and then "when an avalanche occurs, as the snow slides down the slope any slab present begins to fragment into increasingly smaller tumbling fragments. If the fragments become small enough the avalanche takes on the characteristics of a fluid." This explains why people get buried under avalanches and not run over. As the avalanche gains momentum, it has more power to do harm.

If David had made one different decision - and keep in mind it wasn't an especially spiritual decision, but only to do his job - he would have avoided the whole situation. It helps me realize why we're told in Colossians 3:23 to do our work as if we were working for God.

Monday, March 1, 2010

For the sake of it...

I said a few weeks ago that I was learning to appreciate running and that I'm not yet loving running, though I am loving the effects of it. True enough, as I see the subtle changes in my body, mood, and attitude I am happy to be running. I even love the opportunity to be alone for a few minutes, with nothing scheduled - just me and the road I'm walking on. But it all boils down to one simple fact: I still don't like running.

Last night I had a thought: is my faith the same? Do I love Christ or just the results of loving Christ? It almost hurt to be so honest with myself. Could it be possible that after all these years I just love the effects of my faith? Please accept these next few thoughts in the manner in which they were intended...

***Do I follow Christ because it makes me a "better" person? (Not better than anyone else, but better than the sinful me.)

***Do I follow Christ because it gets me into heaven?

***Do I follow Christ because it protects me from the dangers of the world? (Won't ever make a stupid drunken decision because I don't drink. Won't ever get an STD because I'm in a faithful marriage. Etc.)

These are just a few of the results that I considered. Or, and I hope, do I love Christ for who He is? Do I love Christ just for the sake of loving Christ? I can tell you honestly - If running didn't help me become the person I want to be, I would not run. God forgive me if I ever feel the same way about Him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A reflection on... reflection.

About a week ago, I took a long walk at the beach one night. From past experience I knew it was about two miles from where I was starting to the pier and that along the way there were quarter-mile markers painted on the bike path. As I started walking I noticed I was at the .25 mile marker. As I walked, I was curious how far I had gone. Since my normal walking path was only a total of two miles I didn't feel the need to go all the way to the pier. Strangely, I didn't see any of the mile markers and before I knew it I was at the pier.

As I turned to walk back I noticed the 1.75 mile maker. Funny, I thought. I hadn't seen it before. And then, even more surprisingly I noticed almost every single quarter-mile marker as I walked back. Some were more noticeable than others, but had I really been that oblivious?

I began to think about how many of us live our lives this same way. We start out with no particular goal in mind, just a general destination. Before we know it we've gotten further from where we started (and read me here, not necessarily in the direction we first intended), seemingly unaware. If we can take a moment to look back at what has brought us to where we now are, the signs seem very clear - even stupidly clear.

On Sunday morning I was thinking about this as Pastor Josh shared Ezekiel 37, the fascinating story of the Valley of Dry Bones. None of those bones were created dry and left in the desert. It was a process. The body the bones once belong to were first brought to the desert (whether by means of work, war, capture, maybe all sorts of reasons), then killed (again, whether by natural causes, nature, murder), and then left there. Then, over the course of time, the bodies rot and all that is left are the bones. Sorry for the visual, but follow me. If this were the end of the story, it'd be pretty sad. Instead, God takes the bones, attaches tendons and flesh, and then breaths life into the bodies. Miraculously, God has taken nothing and made it something.

If I can take a moment to reflect on who I am, will I see that God can restore anything and everything I may have lost over the years?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Like a Sock

Do you ever feel discouraged when you look at the people around you - the people you see at the grocery store, or a restaurant, or who pass you on the freeway? Sometimes I do, and I know logically that there is no reason for it. I know I am loved by God, my family, my friends... but sometimes that voice of doubt sneaks in and whispers, "Why do you feel so special? You're just like everyone else." It's silly, I know.

The other day I was folding laundry and as anyone who has ever done laundry will tell you, I have a slightly OCD way. I had just about finished folding everything, and had gotten to a big pile of socks. Kids socks. Work socks. Dress socks. Bed socks. There were a lot of socks. At one point, I couldn't tell the difference between a few very similar looking grey socks, until I finally realized that if I looked inside I would see the stitches were different, and then of course I'd be able to pair them quite easily.

It was right then and there that I heard God tell me I'm like a sock. Profound, I know. =) The point, however, is that it doesn't matter what people seem like, it matters who they are. And, God knows who we are even when it seems no one else does.

One day he said, "Samuel, I've rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil in a small container and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I've chosen one of his sons to be my king." Samuel answered, "If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed." 
"Take a calf with you," the LORD replied. "Tell everyone that you've come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head." Samuel did what the LORD told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, "Is this a friendly visit?"
"Yes, it is!" Samuel answered. "I've come to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. Get yourselves ready to take part in the sacrifice and come with me." Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part. When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse's oldest son, Eliab. "He has to be the one the LORD has chosen," Samuel said to himself.
But the LORD told him, "Samuel, don't think Eliab is the one just because he's tall and handsome. He isn't the one I've chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts." (1 Samuel 16:1-7, CEV)

If you continue reading, you'll learn that David was the last choice. Not out of two or three, but of seven brothers, David was the last one to be considered. It's very encouraging to know that even David, one of the great kings of our Christian history was the underdog too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Beautiful Voice

Yesterday at church I sat on the opposite side of where I normally do. As we were singing, the most beautiful, deep voice boomed from somewhere near me. Wow, I thought. Who's voice had I not been hearing all this time? Subtly looking around, I systematically eliminated all of the men I could see until the only person who remained could hardly be considered a man. He was perhaps 16, and standing next to a woman who appeared to be his grandmother. And then, just like that, it was confirmed for me as I saw him open his mouth to bellow a smooth, deep verse of the song we were singing. I honestly felt I could listen to him all day!

Then it hit me - God hears our praise the same way I heard this young man. He loves to hear us speak His name and watch us serve Him. He enjoys every moment of it. It is beautiful to Him. How often do we hold back because we think we're insignificant? Truth be told, there is no good that is too small for God to appreciate.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A look at intent...

My first piece of mail in 2010 was a notification from the Department of Real Estate informing me that I had to update my license in order to be compliant with a new law. Having heard from another licensee that the process was nominally painless, I finally mustered up the strength and went online to complete the form.

After entering in my basic information (name, SSN, license number, etc) it asked me to identify which kind of real estate business I had participated in. I thought it interesting that one of the options was "Sell or offer to sell, buy or offer to buy or exchange notes secured by real estate." Selling, buying, and exchanging notes is not eye catching, but the "offer to" part was.

It seems that the DRE looks at action that same way God does, by measuring your intent. In Matthew 6:21-22 Jesus says:
You have heard that the ancients were told, "You shall not commit murder" and "Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court." But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, "You good-for-nothing," shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, "You fool," shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
It doesn't seem fair that anger would be comparable to murder until you realize that they are just different results of planting the same seed. Take a moment to look at your actions and the motivation behind them. You might be surprised at what you see.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way past the candy dish...

The last few years I have decided that I can't - or, let's be honest, maybe just don't want to - make New Year's Resolutions. I like to tell myself that there are just too many ways I want to improve myself, and so instead I make New Month Resolutions! Maybe I'm just non-committal.

This year on January 1 I resolved to not eat chocolate for the month of January. Though I'm sure right now my boss Karen, the queen of all things dark chocolate, is considering firing me for this, it's a decision I made for a few reasons. First of all, recent findings show I may be allergic. I know, I know, but please don't cry for me. Secondly, I could stand to lose a few pounds and avoiding chocolate certainly won't hurt, except maybe emotionally.

Well, it was only January 2 when I realized how prevalent chocolate is in my life. My husband bought a delicious birthday cake for our son and it had the most delicous chocolate mousse filling - I'm speaking from memory of course, because I some how managed to only eat the cake and frosting, thus keeping my resolution. Despite crazy thoughts of "how could I NOT eat my son's birthday cake" I stood strong. Phew! That was a close one.

So here we are a few days later and something amazing, even empowering, happened. On my way out the front door of our office, as I walked right past the candy dish my first thought was not to questions how to avoid the chocolate, but rather that I really didn't want/need ANY candy. What a surprising turn of events: I took one small stand and it gave me more strength than I planned on.

With that on my mind, I wondered what might happen if I took a similar stand in some spiritual matters. If I resolved to read one Bible verse a day, perhaps I'd read a whole chapter. Or two. If I resolved to say please and thank you more, maybe I'd actually feel more grateful the gifts God has given me. 2 Timothy 1 tells us to "fan into flame the gift of God." Notice it is not "fan the flame" signifying a blaze that is already burning, rather it is the transition of something small into something greater.

Let's see how the rest of the month goes...