Living in the landlocked heartland of the United States, I don’t often experience oceans. So during a visit to Mexico recently, I savored the sounds: the rolling waves of the North Atlantic lapping the shore, the calls of unfamiliar birds; the sights: sublime blues, greens and aquas; the sensations: warmth and dynamic, soothing sand underfoot.
There were kayaks and baby catamarans for us to journey a few hundred yards from shore. On each exertion, the swells of the waves lifted and rested, rocked and settled the small crafts. Had the winds been stronger and the waves more forceful, we would have been challenged to paddle or sail on course. But the days were merely breezy — it was on one of those afternoons while kayaking the gentle, stable swells, that a scripture came to mind:
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
The lesson was in the water — its power, its movement, its potential force. Assuming we desire God’s will for our lives, if need be, God will increase his power under our efforts to move us where we belong.
Sometimes we paddle, but foolishly. Sometimes we lack motivation and inspiration, and just sit there in our kayaks, not paddling at all. Our humanness makes us incapable of perfection, and many life decisions are burdensome. What if we error? We fear the consequences of poor paddling, poor decisions — “What if I choose the wrong friends, the wrong college or major, the wrong mate, the wrong job in the wrong city, the wrong school for my children, the wrong doctor or medical facility for a grave health issue, the wrong end-of-life care for a loved one … ?”
Fear not. God’s purpose will prevail. Life decisions which appear to us to be permanently consequential, are not so from God’s perspective. Regardless the direction we’ve paddled or drifted, our life stories are not over. If we genuinely desire God’s will for our lives, yet inadvertently paddle or drift in the wrong direction, he will rise like ocean waves to move and settle us onto his course.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
What a relief. The big and small decisions we must make in life, are not as burdensome as they often seem. If we sincerely and consistently aspire to be in God’s will, then, despite our misjudgments, apathy and errors, the LORD’S purpose will certainly prevail.
Rest. I always thought that it was a break from productivity.
Silly me, because I know the essential role of rest in physical conditioning. Following a period of challenges to the body, rest allows for the body to respond by increasing oxygen-carrying capacity, bone density, muscle expansion, hypertrophy of individual muscle fibers, and more. Leave out the critical phase of rest, and the body will break down. Include the critical phase of rest, and during that time the body improves to better meet the increased demands that are being placed on it.
Our souls need rest also.
Just like in physical training, the amount of time in the rest phase is important: too little and recovery and expansion is compromised; too much and we lose all that we gained from the pain. Anyone who has stopped running for an extended time knows that starting again is like being a first-time runner. We don’t keep fitness without regularly participating at the level we were at before. We simply lose it. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.
So rest is for a time, not meant to be forever, unless your goal is to be a supreme couch potato. And frankly, that’s not good for your health — count on living less years on this planet if rest is your constant state of being. We don’t want our minds, emotions, and abilities to handle life to shrink either. Why not turn the pains we just went through into gains, to better meet the demands that life is placing on us? Rest for a time, but plan to return to life with the “more” that we just acquired.
Some of us are on the opposite end of the spectrum. We think rest equates to laziness. Rest is wasted time. We think it’s unproductive. We feel guilty resting when tasks are waiting. We feel best the more productive we are. We are wired to be task-oriented. Or perhaps we’ve been unknowingly misled to esteem it.
Reframe rest for the soul as being productive, because it is. During rest we are restored. No, it’s not measurable in the way that the performance of the human body can be, but logic informs us that rest must also be beneficial, even essential, to our inner selves.
Find rest for your souls where you choose. I found mine in the arms our loving Father.
I don’t remember when it first happened, the real but immeasurable and unprovable settling inside his embrace. I do remember that it was on a night when I was distraught, anxious and afraid. I was out of ideas and out of options. I so wanted to be a little girl again, when I remembered finding peace in the arms of my parents. Back when it was socially okay to be helpless and afraid. Back when it was acceptable to cry without knowing why. Back when it was okay to find solace there, and the size of me was little and size of my parents was big.
And there it appeared, that first night, the offering of open arms. The big, strong, broad chest, welcoming me to lay my head there. The arms that surrounded me gently but firmly as soon as I settled inside them. The soothing beat of his heart against my cheek.
Since that first night, I seek those arms regularly. I find I’m settling there even when I’m not distraught, afraid, or anxious. I rest in Him simply because I can. It’s wonderful there. I will never outgrow it, there are no age limitations or requirements that must be met first.
He’s there always, welcoming anyone needing rest. And we all do.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
Those who believe in God commonly believe he loves us unconditionally. He blesses us unconditionally. We find solace in that. We hold fast to the belief that as soon as we commit a wrong, even knowing it is incongruent with the God we claim to serve, we are instantly forgiven. We easily send faith into the universe for all the benefits of God, because our father is the creator of that universe. We acquire all that is God’s because we are his children. We believe we are not only loved unconditionally by him, but are promised all his benefits without conditions.
There is a condition. We may erase it the second we read it, but that doesn’t make it go away. We may briefly acknowledge it by claiming that, “Of course, yes, I fear Him,” but that doesn’t make it true.
Do we truly fear Him?
1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
2021 is just days away. Moving into itcan be viewed as a portal or gate — imagine a TSA checkpoint at an airport. What if the qualification of passing from our current status to the one we are meant to be in is that we must shed some luggage? — only those who are traveling light can pass through. Would we do it, or would we stay behind, unwilling to comply? What if it was God who defined those terms, and the requirements were personalized?
I know most people from church culture would say, “Of course, to love God is to obey God, I always do.” But what people say and what people do are often very different. I have traveled many miles, so to speak, with people who claimed God as their priority, and commander and King, but witnessed them unwilling to leave behind their massive pile of luggage…
Before it turned chilly, I power-washed a couple years of accumulated grime and algae from the siding of our house, drive, and landscaping blocks. It amounted to long hours of standing, aiming the wand, thinking and listening.
The word “rejuvenate” looped in my mind every day I worked.
I heard it as a positive, not from a tone of admonition, as in “How did you let that grime get there?”, or “This is the natural consequence of aging and time.”
No, the word “rejuvenate” was enveloped in a whisper of hope and promise, as in “Do you expect this newness of me?”, or “I am reminding you to look forward to becoming ‘like new; that’s what I do because that’s who I am.”
Rejuvenate. A verb (used with object),re·ju·ve·nat·ed,re·ju·ve·nat·ing.
To make young again; restore to youthful vigor, appearance, etc.:That vacation has certainly rejuvenated him.to restore to a former state; make…
Darkness hates the light, because light overcomes it.
In good times and in bad, look for light. Call for God who is light. In Him is no darkness at all.
Darkness disguises itself as light. It dangles carrots, hoping you will bite. It promises power, control, winning. Once you take the bait, it overtakes, inch by inch. Give it an inch and it takes a mile of who you used to be.
Darkness is furious; it is reckless; it is demanding. It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy others. It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy you.
Darkness tells you it is all-powerful. In reality, darkness is not the boss of your life. You are the sole decision-maker of your body, soul and spirit. Disavow darkness. Take captive every thought to bring it into submission to God, for he is light, and light will overcome your darkness.
Across the world, Protestant and Catholic Christians are honoring the 500th anniversary of The Reformation, initiated by the Germany monk, Martin Luther. Luther also composed, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. His arguments challenged his time’s religious establishment, the status quo, the theology and hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the “middle man” who had positioned itself as gatekeeper to God. The Church required humanity to pass through its narrow gate, teaching they must earn access to Christ through good works as defined by the Church. Luther pointed out otherwise.
I’m not so sure that much of today’s Protestant Church, since its cleansing of human additives, hasn’t steadily morphed and currently harbors as much corruption as the Catholic institution Luther abhorred 500 years ago.
Is it not common to see increasing numbers of individuals, churches, and percentages of denominations present themselves as gatekeepers to God? Do they not require of humanity…
In our own eyes, we are more than our worst moments.
In God’s eyes, we are more than our best moments.
Let that sink in. More than our best moments. We’ve only just begun to tap our potential. We haven’t even imagined what God has in mind for us to be.
There is no glass ceiling for our lives when God is given charge.
When God is in charge of ourselves. And therein lies the secret:
Let Him be the teacher, director, coach, counselor, and ruler of our lives. He is right there, willing to be in partnership with us. We don’t have to be alone — we weren’t meant to be alone. He will be our life partner, our team mate, our personal team leader.
But only if we are aware of that fact. Only if we consciously let Him. He won’t intrude and take over anyone or anything if He isn’t requested.
When He is included each and every moment of each and every day — which takes conscious choice until it becomes a habit — the sky’s the limit in our daily lives.
In partnership with God, when we come to the end of our limitations, He takes us beyond …
When the US legalized gay marriage, social media was abuzz with opinions on the topic. I intended to defer to greater minds, and to those it affects directly, but the following Facebook post by an acquaintance pulled me into the fray:
There seems to be some confusion brought into the Church about whether Gay people will go to heaven. Apparently, God Himself has something to weigh in on this subject (for those with ears to hear what the Spirit says to the Church).
“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
I’ve overlooked the chastisements and judgments of her varied posts over the months since we met, as well as during a social event she invited me to, but this time stirred a response. I commented on her post, mentioning verses from 1 Cor. 13 about love, and God’s call for us to love, not condemn. Immediately, she sent me texts on my phone and private messages on Facebook, saying I was a voice for Satan, and an “accuser of the brethren”. I was still recoiling from those words, when she berated me at length on her post, including use of scriptures meant to silence a rebuttal.
Plenty of scriptures came to my own mind in support of love, but I knew they weren’t welcome. I typed a comment, “I have no words. I thought I was allowed a point of view. Why is promoting God’s love a reason to attack me?”, but it didn’t go through. I had already been blocked. Unfriended. Accused but denied a response. Rejected and ejected. Over and done in mere minutes.
The unjust and bizarre attack was meant to intimidate, silence and to shame me, just as the post was meant to do to gays. To be honest, I was shaken, especially by the amount of hate that was unleashed toward me. It didn’t escape notice that most of it was spewed offline where nobody could witness it. I had experienced a taste of the hatred that so many people endure from a few “Christians”.
Why does one woman’s behavior matter enough to address it in a blog post? Because this woman and her husband started and pastor a church, and additionally run an area-wide ministry to “lead leaders of the church”. How many others are being bullied, intimidated, accused and condemned?
So, in defense of the bullied, I challenge the bully …
What was the purpose of a post condemning gays to hell? Who was the intended audience for your “lesson”? It was a public setting, so I presume it was meant for any-and-all to read and take heed. I’ve wracked my brain for how it could be helpful to anyone, and have come up blank.
If people who are gay or lesbian read it, you created an illusion of a massive wall between them and God. Instead of hearing good news, such as John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”, they are met with an impenetrable wall with a closed door, and this sign over it: “Condemnation Church.” Why would anyone want to enter through that door?
Why do people who have received God’s forgiveness and grace themselves, play bouncer and dictate who is allowed to know God and who is not? Why not do as we are asked, which is love others as he loves us, and share indiscriminately the truths that have given us life?
God is not exclusionary, and the (door)way to him is not via people. People may present themselves as the hoop to jump through, but they are not Christ. Imperfect beings that we are, we often ignore what we want, conclude some issues in the Bible are obsolete or indicative of the culture of the time (such as owning slaves, or the practice of polygamy and having concubines), while insisting on the infallibility of the Bible when using scriptures that reinforce our current beliefs.
Why don’t we admit that we aren’t all-knowing? Why don’t we suspend judgment during times of change and controversy? It’s foolish not to, because our dogma and arrogance is very evident to others – we are but resounding gongs. We think we have the monopoly on all truth, and everybody else is wrong. We’re certain everyone notes our rightness, our superiority, but all others hear is a piercing, clanging cymbal.
While we’re playing God, we are only helping the enemy’s cause, not God’s. We are the reason people are repelled from God.
We abuse God’s Word to puff up our pride, and flaunt our authoritative superiority over innocent people. We don’t even bother to ask God whathis view is of others. We accuse people who don’t agree with us of not “having ears to hear” his Spirit, while it is we who won’t listen. We won’t humble ourselves and ask for God’s guidance, because if we do, we’re likely to be knocked off our pedestals — for he humbles those who exalt themselves. If we listen to him, he might tell us the very person we are condemning pleases him; he loves and approves of them; he or she loves him back and is malleable clay in his, the potter’s, caring hands.
He might unleash his wrath on us, not our victims, if we had “ears to hear”. So we don’t ask him anything, and we don’t listen. We keep busy, condemning. We don’t even need God’s presence or direction; we already know which scriptures to use to ambush anyone who disagrees with us.
Still, somehow, the Bible transcends its misuse by humanity to represent God’s perfect nature. In the midst of those texts that mystify and divide, there are wonders to fill a lifetime. Instead of picking and choosing the scriptures to reinforce dogma, why not share the extensive wonders of God’s truths? Like this wonder:
All have free access to a loving God through a simple acceptance of Christ. Jesus wasn’t speaking of a select, exclusive group of people when he said,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
Where do I go when darkness overwhelms? Where do I go when evil abounds and hopelessness prevails? Where do I go when I am powerless to right what is wrong?
To the only one who will accept my collapse for a time into total dependency.
To the one who sheds light on what is dark … little by little, or all at once … it isn’t up to me but up to him.
To the one who brings me into a partnership, not puppetry as I once imagined of him.
To the one who changes my expectations and beliefs — about almost everything — who corrects wrong-teaching acquired from birth forward, the misinformation about people and God, earth and heaven, death and life, evil and good, darkness and light.
Where do I go when I am fearful?
To the one who believes in me, and proves it by stepping back and…